Monday, April 25, 2005

Anzac Today

No pictures today ( or maybe later)- it is a day when Australian and New Zealanders remember all their war dead by commemorating a futile attempt to take a small beach at Anzac Cove in the Dardenelles - known as Gallipolli. It was a political and military disaster and involved the sacrifice and maiming of 450,000 lives of young men including the Turkish soldiers. The cove had to be evacuated in the end which amazingly was done without the loss of life. It is seen as the 'blooding' of our nation. However for me one of the most poignant comments on war comes from a young and brilliant English poet, Wilfred Owen, who died on 4 November 1918 in the Somme, days before the armistice. I read it out loud once at an Anzac day ceremony when I was still in High school ( and had been asked to deliver a speech on behalf of the school- I simply read the poem because it said it all) and the local RSL were so outraged that they wrote a letter of complaint to the school, but as the school was able to point out- it was written by a soldier who had made the ultimate sacrifice in battle- his life. I feel for everyone who has lost someone in any war, however the killing of young men and women is not a solution to anything, as wars have proved time and time again.
So here goes;
Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent Double, like beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed,coughing like hags,we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out 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 gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick,boys!- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime-
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
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 dream, 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,
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.
from Wilfred Owen, Poems, ed., Edmund Blunden, (1969, Chatto and Windus, London)


Anonymous said...

I'm with you regarding Anzac Day Dijanne, the Owens poem says it all. What a brave (or is that brazen?? :-) ) schoolgirl you miust have been. Typical reaction from the RSL of course.
Did you get your grad. exhibition stuff back yet? If not, would you like me to pop over to the school and retrive it for you?
Hope to catch up with you later this year if you do the MSCA at CSU again.
best wishes,
Karen Fitzpatrick

teri springer said...

My favorite aunt's father died in 1929, the result of damage to him by exposure to mustard gas in WWI in Europe. Marge was only 9 years old and had already lost her mother to TB. Gallipoli was one of the great tragedies of WWI.....and such great losses for countries with such limited manpower. I think your reading of the poem was perfect.

Oh, and the fabrics are wonderful.