Monday, May 31, 2010

On Memorial Day

There are some that think that Memorial Day is about patriotism and flag waving. Some feel that this is tripe, given the hypocrisies of Presidents, Generals, and corporations in all generations.

It is neither - it's about boys and girls who have lost their lives in horrible conditions, whom we, collectively, sent out to do nasty, brutish work, not about the politics of why they were sent, or whether they should have been. We must, we should, remember our war dead. Shall we forget them? Then shame, shame to us.

Remember our dead, and pray for their souls, and ours.


Happy are men who yet before they are killed
Can let their veins run cold.
Whom no compassion fleers
Or makes their feet
Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers.
The front line withers,
But they are troops who fade, not flowers
For poets’ tearful fooling:
Men, gaps for filling:
Losses, who might have fought
Longer; but no one bothers.

And some cease feeling
Even themselves or for themselves.
Dullness best solves
The tease and doubt of shelling,
And Chance’s strange arithmetic
Comes simpler than the reckoning of their shilling.
They keep no check on armies’ decimation.

Happy are these who lose imagination:
They have enough to carry with ammunition.
Their spirit drags no pack.
Their old wounds, save with cold, can not more ache.
Having seen all things red,
Their eyes are rid
Of the hurt of the colour of blood forever.
And terror’s first constriction over,
Their hearts remain small-drawn.
Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle
Now long since ironed,
Can laugh among the dying, unconcerned.

Happy the soldier home, with not a notion
How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack,
And many sighs are drained.
Happy the lad whose mind was never trained:
His days are worth forgetting more than not.
He sings along the march
Which we march taciturn, because of dusk,
The long, forlorn, relentless trend
From larger day to huger night.

We wise, who with a thought besmirch
Blood over all our soul,
How should we see our task
But through his blunt and lashless eyes?
Alive, he is not vital overmuch;
Dying, not mortal overmuch;
Nor sad, nor proud,
Nor curious at all.
He cannot tell
Old men’s placidity from his.

But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
That they should be as stones;
Wretched are they, and mean
With paucity that never was simplicity.
By choice they made themselves immune
To pity and whatever moans in man
Before the last sea and the hapless stars;
Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
Whatever shares
The eternal reciprocity of tears.

- Wilfred Owen


Blogger Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Wow! Thank you for posting this poem. It will take several readings to get to its meanings, but I'll try.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Jim Swindle said...

I was not familiar with your blog nor with Wilfred Owen, but Romanós led me here. It's a well-written poem. You may enjoy my much simpler Memorial Day poem...if you want to read it, go to and search for Memorial Day. Thanks for posting it, and thanks for your introduction to it. There's a difference between dishonoring the war dead, honoring the war dead properly, and blind patriotism.

6:24 PM  

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