Tuesday, September 28, 2010

“My subject is War and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

Anthem for Doomed Youth 

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,--
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds
I’ve decided that every morning l will walk to work and stop by at my favourite café, Animal Orchestra, for a café au lait (caffè  latte). This café is not only bohemian but only the well-educated bourgeois can be found there. It reminds me of the Left Bank (rive gauche) in Paris. Only you won’t see Anaïs Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, Sarte or any of the French Existentialists, for that matter!

I have been trying to walk to work as regularly as possible. This morning l left home at 8am in the morning and rang my colleague, as we had arranged to have a telephone meeting before 9.30am. He was situated in some lavish office in the city while l was brisk walking along Rathdowne Street. Because of school holidays the traffic was mild. The great thing about walking early in the morning is that you can see who the early risers are in Carlton.

I do take exception to the proverb – early to bed and early to rise and you never meet any prominent people. What an absolute fallacy. One thing that you do notice early in the morning in Carlton is the underbelly; all dressed in black, sitting close to their parked   black Mercedes & black BMWs, having a café mocha, in a café along Lygon street.

This morning l was thinking about Wilfred Owen’s poetry.  I was first introduced to his poetry in year 10 at high school. Our English literature teacher was a very erudite and passionate Irish Protestant. In our class we also had an Irish Catholic male student, who was a recent arrival to Australia. We would laugh at their accents as we were naïve and did not understand the content of the fiery diatribes they were firing against each other- fuelled by religious sectarianism and the British occupation in Ireland. She would always break into a thunderous laughter at the tirades hurled at her by what she probably thought was an eighth-rate scrivener, and also because the whole class supported him.

Wilfred Owen’s poetry brings back memories of my father. My father did not have one positive word to say about his compulsory military service experience nor war itself. He saw military service as the bare face of human brutality. Perhaps my longing for Owen’s poetry is fused with my longing for my father who died last year.  

By the time l reach Animal Orchestra my fond memories of my father have been taken over by fury and rage - at Blair’s memoirs - the creative ambiguity he deploys to justify the war in Iraq. Not even the wiles of politicians and their creative ambiguity can disguise the fact that his rational to justify war was proven to be untrue as there were no weapons of mass destruction. The classified records show that the war was based on deception, a deliberate lie. 

The only verse that l can remember from an Owen poem is the one below, as it was an essay topic, that was set, and which terrified me because it contained Latin:

To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie
: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori[1].

[1] it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country

1 comment:

  1. I too like Wilfred Owen, great blog
    Keep it up.