Poem for the last of World War One
Just found this poem by the new Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. It starts with two lines from Wilfred Owen's Dulce et decorum est and imagines if the horrors of the First World War could be rewound and never brought to pass.
Last postIn all my dreams, before my helpless sight,He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.If poetry could tell it backwards, true, beginthat moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad bloodrun upwards from the slime into its wounds;see lines and lines of British boys rewindback to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothersnot entering the story nowto die and die and die.Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.You walk away.You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)like all your mates do too-Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-and light a cigarette.There's coffee in the square,warm French breadand all those thousands deadare shaking dried mud from their hairand queuing up for home. Freshly alive,a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, releasedfrom History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.You lean against a wall,your several million lives still possibleand crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.If poetry could truly tell it backwards,then it would.
Both this and Dulce... are deeply affecting as they wish away the reality of war whilst helpless to do anything about it. Whether that makes Duffy's Last post an entirely fitting tribute of lives that were given in willing and genuine sacrifice I don't know but it does describe "the pity of war" (Owen's suggested Preface) and gives me pause to pray again for peace and a generation not lost but saved.