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 disappointed shells 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 floundering 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.
3 thoughts on “Armistice Day”
Excellent post for this day, lest we forget the true horrors of war. It must have been difficult to choose which of his poems to post. This poem was written shortly before he was diagnosed with shell shock. This is a part of war that is not much talked about. The book “Beyond Valor” has a short final chapter which adresses wars’ ravaging of the mind. Tonight I will watch the film “Saving Private Ryan” for the opening 45 minutes just to remind myself that war is hell. My dad always instilled this thought in me…which he learned first hand as a paratrooper in Normandy, Holland and Belgium. I never really understood the hell that played over and over in his head until recently. It is too bad that war is still so glorified by the media and politicians…to whit “Mission accomplished”
Thank you Dervala for showing a little bit of the true nature of war. And why veterans should be honored for what they endured.
Albany, Channel 10, WTEN, right in the middle of the blue states, capital of NY… cancelled Saving Private Ryan because of the PhCC’s phlap about using the ph word on TV. Using the ph word is indecent. I think the real reason is not wanting to show real war and its horrors on veterans day. Better to have flag waving, hypocritical words, and sanitized images. Now that, I think, is not only indecent, but obscene and immoral.
Nice. I chose “Willie McBride” which was brought to my attention by Clancy & Makem: http://swexegete.typepad.com/GuysBlog/2004/11/thank_you_pvt_m.html
While the Irish certainly have a raft of war lyrics, they have a quite a number of antiwar ones as well.
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