Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Poem of the week - On reading the war poets - start of a series about war poetry


There's no such thing as bad publicity” Sam Goldwyn


I'd like to see a tank come through the class
Smothered in flags, steered by a bold Dragoon,
While teacher lists the horrors of old wars
And reads out poems by Owen and Sassoon.

Then hearts would jump, and brightness fill young eyes
And the whole room would fill with tears and cheers,
For war's addictive and it lifts our hearts
Despite its mounds of deaths and lakes of tears.

Yes there's excitement, beauty, friendship, love
Among the young who fight an ugly war.
This truth forgotten, then forget the hope
That someday we will suffer war no more.

Nick Mellersh 2015

I have often thought that the war poets are popular in part at least more because we are excited by war just as much as we are horrified by it. So this poem is a sort of parody of Sassoon's Blighters (see below) that tries to make that point. I often think that maybe war poems do as much to promote war as to discourage it.

No question that the poems are good.  Great even. Everything by Sassoon is beautifully made and seems to fit perfectly into place.  (Notice how my poem is stretched out to three stanza's while Sassoon manages it in two and with two rhymes in each stanza.) Owen is more swept with emotion and loose than Sassoon but in a way easier to read and empathize with. Anyway I hope to get my friends the Pascoes, Nigel and Lisa to record a set of poems by Sassoon and Owen and  perhaps add one or of my own.  I am struggling with a poem called "Who reads the Peace Poets."  So I hope you'll be following this and giving your opinions on whether you think Owen is better than Sassoon and on how and if the world can learn to live without war.  This is in part of course because I am just about to publish my father's life of Sassoon as an ebook - see the ebook tab at the top of this page.

Working on my dad's World War i ebook has made me think a lot about war, why we do it and how we can avoid it.

Anyway here is the Sassoon poem.

Blighters
The House is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin
And cackle at the show, while prancing ranks
Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din;
We’re sure the Kaiser loves our dear old Tanks!’

I’d like to see a tank come down the stalls,
Lurching to rag-time tunes, or ‘Home sweet Home’,
And there’d be no more jokes in music-halls
To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume.
Siegfried Sassoon
 
 

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