… and the innumerable stuttering recitations of it by runny-nosed school children, veterans, and politicians. It’s a pop song! And a trite one. A,A,B,B,A, blech!
So, to offset all the blogs and such which have reproduced it this Armistice week, I reproduce the only poem from the Great War that really matters.
Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen
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 a 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.
This country has a renewed jonz for death in foreign lands, in the name of “freedom, homes, and loved ones dear” (despite the unpopularity today of our present war). Don Cherry has made himself its high priest, weeping on Coach’s Corner for our war dead, past, present and future. When Obama comes calling to ask for more Canadian sacrifice in his refocused War on Terror, will everyone up here who was so overjoyed at his election last week be prepared to do him that favour?