Friday, November 11, 2005

Lest we forget


"All we have of freedom, all we use or know--
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw--
Leave to live by no man's leave, underneath the Law--

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing,
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King."

Kipling wrote this on 9 October 1899, at the outbreak of the Boer War - the conquest of a people in the name of human rights and justice. It was a warning to the nation that is just as resonant today. It NEEDS to be read in full!

His "Epitaph for a Statesman" is pretty spot on too:
"I could not dig; I dared not rob;
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What lies will serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?"

But for anti-war my money's on Siegfried Sassoon. He served in the First World War and was known for his bravery in battle. He was a friend and mentor to fellow poet Wilfred Owen.
"Does it matter? — losing your legs?...
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter? — losing your sight?...
There's such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Do they matter? – those dreams from the pit?...
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad,
For they’ll know you’ve fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit."

But what about the psychotic energy of his poem "The Kiss"?
"To these I turn, in these I trust—
Brother Lead and Sister Steel.
To his blind power I make appeal,
I guard her beauty clean from rust.

He spins and burns and loves the air,
And splits a skull to win my praise;
But up the nobly marching days
She glitters naked, cold and fair.

Sweet Sister, grant your soldier this:
That in good fury he may feel
The body where he sets his heel
Quail from your downward darting kiss."

While we're on a cheery note, a Royal British Legion report, released the day before Armistice Day, (i.e. yesterday) estimates that 10.5 million people make up Britain's ex-service community.

The average net household income was £15,500 yearly, it said. Some 46% said they had net household income of less than £10,000 a year - the amount the government says is necessary to live on. One in 10 - or 11% - said they had net household incomes of £5,000 a year.

As Kipling said:
"You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!"
Read the rest - it's worth it!

Support the Poppy Appeal 2005
Category: History_ England_

7 Comments:

Blogger Span Ows said...

Well done Gavin, there were 2 or 3 more not so famous WW1 poets whose names escape me...long time since I dipped my toe in the warm, engulfing waters of the ocean of poetry but this is really good of you...I shall read the full versions via the links and more besides.

Fri Nov 11, 01:59:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

I got a bit carried away during the two minutes silence!

Fri Nov 11, 02:50:00 PM GMT  
Blogger ianhug66 said...

Nice post Gavin, it always brings a lump to my throat when I see the old soldiers on tv. Thanks for your comments re my latest post, it will be quite a long one, there's a few years to cover. Take care mate..

Fri Nov 11, 06:22:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Six Years Late said...

Very apt post. By the way love your Team Britain badge - but, the link's broken mate

Fri Nov 11, 07:42:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Which link Six? It all seems to work for me and I'm on another machine at home now...

Fri Nov 11, 10:37:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Nice to see you back i the saddle (figuratively speaking) Ian!

Fri Nov 11, 10:38:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Kayfer Kettle said...

This is a really great post Gav.

I can understand you getting abit carried away on the day - it is always very emotive, and I cannot understand how a person cannot be touched by that respectful silence and the sound of the 'Last Post'.

I hope that my studies will bring me more of this kind of thing, and this has been a nice little peek in advance!

Good stuff.
Kate x

Mon Nov 14, 09:14:00 PM GMT  

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