Thursday, September 20, 2012

Budging the sluggard...

...ripples of the Somme, he wrote, and I imagine the young soldier laying down his book, grass-stalk in mouth, to watch the hospital barge drift by in the reddening varnished sunlight. Perhaps that afternoon he was on leave, a few still hours respite from the cacophony of Flanders.

There is something fierce and sad in the writing of this war poet and the best of his poetry came in the single year before his death in action by another canal. He described men marching asleep, the 'ecstasy of fumbling' at the clarion 'Gas! Gas!' and 'The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est / Pro patria mori.'

And in his dream,there,  'How unto Avalon, in agony / Kings passed in the dark barge...'

Wilfred Owen wrote those words on December 8th 1917, exactly 73 years before the birth of MCH;  he fell eleven months later at an age close to hers now, one of nearly 900,000 of his countrymen, and one of few who left a legacy of the carnage in haunting verse.

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