19 May 2007

War Poets

Tomorrow night to the excellent Durrell School of Corfu for the launch of its programme on "The Literature of War".

From an early age, the World War 1 poets fascinated me and I always chose from them for the poetry comps.

Wilfred Owen impressed me and for one competition I read his "Disabled"

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

Being a smutty-minded schoolboy I always tried to give a lascivious turn to the line about girls' waists and probably a nudge and a wink to the reference to 'queer'.

Anyway, a few days after the reading I was up for a beating for some contravention or other and the master at the end of the cane was one I particularly feared and distrusted.

After he'd delivered the statutory "six of the best" he suddenly added another one for, as he said, my disgusting interpretation of "that dismal poem", making sure that I knew it was to the "waist" line to which he alluded.

I tell you, those schools housed some mighty queer folks in the Staff Common Room and I'm not at all surprised I turned out the rum cove I am to this day. But I digress.

Another poem that I can recite in toto to this day is Rupert Brooke's moving The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Laughter learnt of friends and gentleness, indeed.


rwells said...

"Beings So Hideous That the Air Weeps Blood"

Beings so hideous that the air weeps blood
And the forehead of God shrivels,
Advance toward us.
Smiling they had Mrs. Buell a tin pail
Of soldiers' livers and other modern delights.

Mrs. Buell looks hopefully at Alfred:
"Tell me, dear, what are we to do now?"
"Just sit tight until the soul plasma gets here"

Lubby Stevers grins. He lifts his right leg
And squirts all over Christ.
"Here's one we haven't killed yet," he exclaims
Happily. "let's pull his
You-know-what off first, though..."
"Oh, goodie, goodie," cries Hubbie, "it'll make
Such a nice trinket for my Missus."

Ah! a noble work is man...
Ah! a noble day for the Civilized Nations..

But Id avise you to sit pretty tight
Until the soul plasma gets here.

Kenneth Patchen

Busker said...

Moving relevant comment from rwells, nothing less expected. Thanks.