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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:31 pm 
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OUch!


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2009 1:06 pm 
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A Burnt Ship


Out of a fired ship, which by no way
But drowning could be rescued from the flame,
Some men leap'd forth, and ever as they came
Near the foes' ships, did by their shot decay;
So all were lost, which in the ship were found,
They in the sea being burnt, they in the burnt ship drown'd.

John Donne


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 7:47 am 
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Enfidaville
Keith Douglas

In the church, fallen like dancers
lie the virgin and Saint Therèse
on little pillows of dust.
The detonations of the last few days
tore down the ornamental plasters.
Shivered the hands of Christ.

The men and women who moved like candles
in and out of the houses and the streets
are all gone. The white houses are bare
black cages; no one is left to greet
the ghosts tugging at doorhandles,
opening doors that are not there.

Now the daylight coming in from the fields
like a labourer, tired and sad
is peering among the wreckage, goes
past some corners as though with averted head
not looking at the pain this town holds,
seeing no one move behind the windows.

But they are coming back; they begin to search
like ants among their débris, finding in it
a bed or a piano and carrying it out.
Who would not love them at this minute?
I seem again to meet
the blue eyes of the images in the church.

(from Personal Landscape: An Anthology of Exile, 1945)

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 6:25 am 
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The more I look, the more powerful this poem is. I enjoyed the weary daylight image and the sudden contrast witht he scurrying people - and the blue eyes of the image.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 6:44 am 
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http://www.nzetc.org/etexts/WH2DiCa/WH2DiCaP025b(h280).jpg
Enfidaville under fire.

I did a quick google as I have never heard of Enfidaville. This was a stormy battle - but also the defeat of the Axis in North Africa. I wonder if that explains the note of hope at the end of the poem.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 6:50 am 
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How about this one then? It's particularly chilling because according to his biographical notes on the net, Douglas was tormented by premonitions of his death:

Simplify Me When I'm Dead


Remember me when I am dead
and simplify me when I'm dead.

As the processes of earth
strip off the colour of the skin:
take the brown hair and blue eye


and leave me simpler than at birth,
when hairless I came howling in
as the moon entered the cold sky.


Of my skeleton perhaps,
so stripped, a learned man will say
"He was of such a type and intelligence," no more.


Thus when in a year collapse
particular memories, you may
deduce, from the long pain I bore


the opinions I held, who was my foe
and what I left, even my appearance
but incidents will be no guide.


Time's wrong-way telescope will show
a minute man ten years hence
and by distance simplified.


Through that lens see if I seem
substance or nothing: of the world
deserving mention or charitable oblivion,


not by momentary spleen
or love into decision hurled,
leisurely arrive at an opinion.


Remember me when I am dead
and simplify me when I'm dead.



Keith Douglas


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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 6:40 pm 
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This was always my least favourite of owen's poems but I came across it again last night and was really struck by it.

Insensibility

Wilfred Owen
I
Happy are men who yet before they are killed
Can let their veins run cold.
Whom no compassion fleers
Or makes their feet
Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers.
The front line withers.
But they are troops who fade, not flowers,
For poets' tearful fooling:
Men, gaps for filling:
Losses, who might have fought
Longer; but no one bothers.


II
And some cease feeling
Even themselves or for themselves.
Dullness best solves
The tease and doubt of shelling,
And Chance's strange arithmetic
Comes simpler than the reckoning of their shilling.
They keep no check on armies' decimation.


III
Happy are these who lose imagination:
They have enough to carry with ammunition.
Their spirit drags no pack.
Their old wounds, save with cold, can not more ache.
Having seen all things red,
Their eyes are rid
Of the hurt of the colour of blood for ever.
And terror's first constriction over,
Their hearts remain small-drawn.
Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle
Now long since ironed,
Can laugh among the dying, unconcerned.


IV
Happy the soldier home, with not a notion
How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack,
And many sighs are drained.
Happy the lad whose mind was never trained:
His days are worth forgetting more than not.
He sings along the march
Which we march taciturn, because of dusk,
The long, forlorn, relentless trend
From larger day to huger night.


V
We wise, who with a thought besmirch
Blood over all our soul,
How should we see our task
But through his blunt and lashless eyes?
Alive, he is not vital overmuch;
Dying, not mortal overmuch;
Nor sad, nor proud,
Nor curious at all.
He cannot tell
Old men's placidity from his.


VI
But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
That they should be as stones.
Wretched are they, and mean
With paucity that never was simplicity.
By choice they made themselves immune
To pity and whatever mourns in man
Before the last sea and the hapless stars;
Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
Whatever shares
The eternal reciprocity of tears.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:41 pm 
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Some rather fine images in here:

All Day It Has Rained

Alun Lewis


All day it has rained, and we on the edge of the moors
Have sprawled in our bell-tents, moody and dull as boors,
Groundsheets and blankets spread on the muddy ground
And from the first grey wakening we have found
No refuge from the skirmishing fine rain
And the wind that made the canvas heave and flap
And the taut wet guy-ropes ravel out and snap.
All day the rain has glided, wave and mist and dream,
Drenching the gorse and heather, a gossamer stream
Too light to stir the acorns that suddenly
Snatched from their cups by the wild south-westerly
Pattered against the tent and our upturned dreaming faces.
And we stretched out, unbuttoning our braces,
Smoking a Woodbine, darning dirty socks,
Reading the Sunday papers - I saw a fox
And mentioned it in the note I scribbled home; -
And we talked of girls and dropping bombs on Rome,

And thought of the quiet dead and the loud celebrities
Exhorting us to slaughter, and the herded refugees;
As of ourselves or those whom we
For years have loved, and will again
Tomorrow maybe love; but now it is the rain
Possesses us entirely, the twilight and the rain.


And I can remember nothing dearer or more to my heart
Than the children I watched in the woods on Saturday
Shaking down burning chestnuts for the schoolyard's merry play,
Or the shaggy patient dog who followed me
By Sheet and Steep and up the wooded scree
To the Shoulder o' Mutton where Edward Thomas brooded long
On death and beauty - till a bullet stopped his song.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:56 pm 
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'Too light to stir the acorns that suddenly
Snatched from their cups by the wild south-westerly'

and the 'shaking down' of chestnuts. All rather sad as the soldiers were shaken and snatched from their existence. The last two lines hit home too.


Last edited by Allyson Bird on Wed Jun 03, 2009 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 9:44 pm 
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All day the rain has glided, wave and mist and dream

I liked this line too.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 11:13 pm 
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Still rereading Owen;

Spring Offensive
by Wilfred Owen


Halted against the shade of a last hill,
They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease
And, finding comfortable chests and knees
Carelessly slept. But many there stood still
To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge,
Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world.
Marvelling they stood, and watched the long grass swirled
By the May breeze, murmurous with wasp and midge,
For though the summer oozed into their veins
Like the injected drug for their bones' pains,
Sharp on their souls hung the imminent line of grass,
Fearfully flashed the sky's mysterious glass.

Hour after hour they ponder the warm field --
And the far valley behind, where the buttercups
Had blessed with gold their slow boots coming up,
Where even the little brambles would not yield,
But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing hands;
They breathe like trees unstirred.

Till like a cold gust thrilled the little word
At which each body and its soul begird
And tighten them for battle. No alarms
Of bugles, no high flags, no clamorous haste --
Only a lift and flare of eyes that faced
The sun, like a friend with whom their love is done.
O larger shone that smile against the sun, --
Mightier than his whose bounty these have spurned.

So, soon they topped the hill, and raced together
Over an open stretch of herb and heather
Exposed. And instantly the whole sky burned
With fury against them; and soft sudden cups
Opened in thousands for their blood; and the green slopes
Chasmed and steepened sheer to infinite space.

Of them who running on that last high place
Leapt to swift unseen bullets, or went up
On the hot blast and fury of hell's upsurge,
Or plunged and fell away past this world's verge,
Some say God caught them even before they fell.

But what say such as from existence' brink
Ventured but drave too swift to sink.
The few who rushed in the body to enter hell,
And there out-fiending all its fiends and flames
With superhuman inhumanities,
Long-famous glories, immemorial shames --
And crawling slowly back, have by degrees
Regained cool peaceful air in wonder --
Why speak they not of comrades that went under?


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 9:34 am 
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I just finished reading Robert Edric's In Zodiac Light, a novel about poet/composer Ivor Gurney set in the City of London Asylum in 1922. There are obvious parallels with Pat Barker's Regeneration, but enough difference of focus to make it an interesting read for anyone with an interest in the period (which presumably might include readers of this thread).

(BTW, I think the reviewers on Amazon are a tad harsh - I'd probably give it four stars myself).

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:31 pm 
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Arithmetic on the Frontier

Rudyard Kipling

A great and glorious thing it is
To learn, for seven years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe--
The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear: "All flesh is grass."

Three hundred pounds per annum spent
On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in "villainous saltpetre!"
And after--ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our 'ologies.

A scrimmage in a Border Station--
A canter down some dark defile--
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail--
The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar's downward blow
Strike hard who cares--shoot straight who can--
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troop-ships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.

The "captives of our bow and spear"
Are cheap--alas! as we are dear.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 6:46 pm 
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Winter Warfare

Edgell Rickword


Colonel Cold strode up the Line
(tabs of rime and spurs of ice);
stiffened all that met his glare:
horses, men and lice.

Visited a forward post,
left them burning, ear to foot;
fingers stuck to biting steel,
toes to frozen boot.

Stalked on into No Man’s Land,
turned the wire to fleecy wool,
iron stakes to sugar sticks
snapping at a pull.

Those who watched with hoary eyes
saw two figures gleaming there;
Hauptmann Kalte, colonel old,
gaunt in the grey air.

Stiffly, tinkling spurs they moved,
glassy-eyed, with glinting heel
stabbing those who lingered there
torn by screaming steel.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:11 am 
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WAR
Edgar Wallace I


A tent that is pitched at the base:
A wagon that comes from the night:
A stretcher – and on it a Case:
A surgeon, who’s holding a light,
The Infantry’s bearing the brunt –
O hark to the wind-carried cheer!
A mutter of guns at the front:
A whimper of sobs at the rear.
And it’s War! ‘Orderly, hold the light.
You can lay him down on the table: so.
Easily – gently! Thanks – you may go.’ Kind and efficient
And it’s War! But the part that is not for show.


II


A tent, with a table athwart,
A table that’s laid out for one;
A waterproof cover – and nought
But the limp, mangled work of a gun.
A bottle that’s stuck by the pole,
A guttering dip in its neck;
The flickering light of a soul
On the wondering eyes of The Wreck,
And it’s War! ‘Orderly, hold his hand.
I’m not going to hurt you, so don’t be afraid.
A ricochet! God! what a mess it has made!’
And it’s War! and a very unhealthy trade.


III


The clink of a stopper and glass:
A sigh as the chloroform drips:
A trickle of - what? on the grass,
And bluer and bluer the lips.
The lashes have hidden the stare…
A rent, and the clothes fall away…
A touch, and the wound is laid bare…
A cut, and the face has turned grey…
And it’s War! ‘Orderly, take It out.
It’s hard for his child, and it’s rough on his wife.
There might have been – sooner – a chance for his life
But it’s War! And – Orderly, clean this knife!’


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