Friday, 11 November 2011

This goth does not glorify death.

Today is Armistice Day; on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Europe stopped beating itself into a bloody pulp for 21 years.  Tomorrow, across the continent and here in the UK, wreath will be laid cenotaphs, monuments and graveyards to commemorate the sacrifice of countless young men, men who went into the war believing it'd all be over soon and no-one would get too badly hurt.

Today I mourn the fact that, 93 years on from The War To End All Wars, when almost all who were alive to witness these events are resting beneath the soil, we still have wars, still wear poppies to support the injured and their families, still make excuses for killing innocents and wasting the lives of soldiers. Every war since 1918 is another insult to those who fought in the hopes that we would never again have to go through such horrors.  Let us not forget, also, those conscientious objectors of their day. It takes braveness beyond measure to stand up for what's right in the face of a firing squad, and looking back, knowing (as they believed) how senseless and brutal WWI was, they deserve their place in history too.  There is no day to commemorate them.

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.

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 - March, 1918


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