Monday, May 26, 2008

Decoration Day 2008

Does it Matter?

Does it matter?—losing your legs? . . .
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter?—losing your sight? . . .
There's such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit? . . .
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won't say that you're mad;
For they'll know you've fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967), in Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918).

Hearing That His Friend Was Coming Back from the War

In old days those who went to fight
In three years had one year's leave.
But in this war the soldiers are never changed;
They must go on fighting till they die on the battle-field.
I thought of you, so weak and indolent,
Hopelessly trying to learn to march and drill.
That a young man should ever come home again
Seemed about as likely as that the sky should fall.
Since I got the news that you were coming back,
Twice I have mounted to the high hall of your home.
I found your brother mending your horse's stall;
I found your mother sewing your new clothes.
I am half afraid; perhaps it is not true;
Yet I never weary of watching for you on the road.
Each day I go out at the City Gate
With a flask of wine, lest you should come thirsty.
Oh that I could shrink the surface of the World,
So that suddenly I might find you standing at my side.

Wang Chien, ca. 830 C.E. (Translated into English by Arthur Waley, 1919).

Today's Rune: Wholeness.


Lana Gramlich said...

"For people will always be kind,

What planet does this writer live on?

Erik Donald France said...

Lana, if you read it again, I think you'll find it rife with black satire and bleak sarcasm, whereas the second one is elegiac and universal. Sassoon survived the Great War, suffered shell shock/posttraumatic stress, but channeled his re-creative energies into poetry.

Sidney said...

Good quotes for the day. They remind me of the original lyrics of When Johnny Comes Marchin' Home, Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, a song that warned of the dangers of joining a war:

Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run
When you went for to carry a gun
Indeed your dancing days are done
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Yeah, People will always be kind ... when the price of gasoline drops and you can step on the gas pedal hard, real real hard, and road rage will once again become a natural response (no matter who is behind the other wheel).

the walking man said...

Sadly it is easier to remember the veterans in a cemetery than it is to support them in reality. Would that every one return home to a skin of wine and a kind people, reality though is that it is no reality to most who did not go.


Charles Gramlich said...

that first one is really powerful