“Such, Such Is Death” – Poems in honor the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War 1

An artificial corn poppy, made of plastic and cardboard by disabled ex-servicemen, worn in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries from late October to Remembrance Sunday in support of the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal and to remember those servicemen and women who died in war. Wearing poppies to remember the war dead comes from the poem In Flanders’ Fields by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae which concludes with the line “We shall not sleep, though poppies grow, In Flanders fields”. Although originally worn to commemorate those who fell in the First World War, poppies are also worn for the fallen of every conflict since. / Public Domain photograph’ legend courtesy of Wikipedia

 

“I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense conciliatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.” Wilfred Owen



This Sunday (tomorrow) is the 100 Anniversary of the end of World War 1, also called “the great war” and “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, World War 1 didn’t end violent conflict. Regional skirmishes and wars flared and twenty-one years later, we earthlings were fighting World War II, which some hypothesize is a war that never really ended.

This anniversary is celebrated in many countries, variously as Remembrance Sunday, Armistice Day, and Veterans Day.

The poets bearing witness are Charles Hamilton Sorley, Wilfred Owen, and A.E. Houseman.  Charles and Wilfred both died in World War 1. All three poets are English.


SUCH, SUCH IS DEATH

·

Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:

Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,

A merciful putting away of what has been.

And this we know: Death is not Life, effete,

Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen

So marvellous things know well the end not yet.

Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:

Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,

“Come, what was your record when you drew breath?”

But a big blot has hid each yesterday

So poor, so manifestly incomplete.

And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,

Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet

And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.

– Charles Hamilton Sorley·

TO GERMANY (1914)

You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But gropers both through fields of thought confined
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other’s dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.

When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other’s truer form
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm
We’ll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But until peace, the storm
The darkness and the thunder and the rain.

– Charles Hamilton Sorley


Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime …
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.

– Wlfred Owen


Here Dead We Lie

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

– A.E. Houseman


ABOUT

Poet and writer, I was once columnist and the associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The River Journal, The Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman

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3 Comments on ““Such, Such Is Death” – Poems in honor the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War 1

  1. I have difficulty finding words to follow those of the poets who were there. Only tears from every single soul that lives, could begin to savage some much needed compassion, particularly from those, who are beginning to forget; who are no longer able to understand the importance of remembrance; the significance of the red poppy.

    I love the quote atop this post by Wilfred Owen on the role of poets.

    Liked by 1 person

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