Before I start, this is not a Second Life post. Just thinking as I get older.
I’m not usually one to get sentimental on rememberance day, I don’t even wear a poppy. I am completely against war in all it’s forms. But, as I think, I wonder how many of those poor souls lost in wars past and present felt the same way, and yet went anyway? There’s no way I can understand their reasons, no way I can know what was in their minds.
The world wars are what we think of today for the most part and that is fitting of course. They went to defend us all, to fight to protect their country. Some went because they wanted to fight, some went because they thought (or were persuaded) that it was the honourable thing to do, some were drafted. I can only assume they all were scared at some point, and yes, they were all heroes no matter what side they fought on.
This is a poem from the first world war, by Wilfred Owen. It’s not pretty, but it does evoke emotion…
Dulce et Decorum Est
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.
A view of the trenches if there ever was one, but fortunately that is no longer the case in war.
I heard on the news yesterday that since the end of the second world war, there has only been one year where no British servicemen have been killed in combat. I suspect most nations have a similar statistic. How can we justify this?
Today’s wars are even worse though, we send our brave men and women out to far places to fight for oil or in the name of some nebulous “war on terror”. But no matter what the war is for, they still go, mostly without complaint. They are still killed or maimed, but now they aren’t defending us the civilians, or their country. Now they are fighting for the reputation of polititians.
This does not sully their sacrifice, but it does speak volumes about those who sent them. And so, completely unlike me…
For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
To those who went, for whatever reason, Thank you. You did what I could not do.