“It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

Its ninety-two years since the end of World War One, and as I post this it is to the day that the guns fell silent across Europe as hostilities ceased between the Entente and the Central Powers. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Great War that had lasted from August 1914 through to November 1918 ceased. World War One is regarded as being the most atrocious conflict of the twentieth century and even though World War Two was much more global and devastating, the way the first conflict was carried out, in terms of strategy and the use of (the then) modern technology was pretty barbaric. We do not need to be reminded of offensives such as the Somme and their costly loss of life, it being the most bloodiest day the British Army has ever experienced, as well as the horrors of trench warfare, going ‘over the top’, mustard gas and massive artillery bombardments; all these things we picture when we think about World War One. For me, when I think about it, it was a black and white war as I recall seeing all those old monochrome photographs of mud, trenches, big shell craters, a ravaged countryside; scenes that are just dreary and dehumanising. Its only in recent times that old colour photographs of 1914-18 have been uncovered, which adds in some respects, a ray of light onto the conflict.

Because this war was so barbaric, a conflict that quite basically was a hangover from the old methods of waging war throughout the Nineteenth Century combined with modern firepower and industrialisation – old methods and new technology probably made this war what it became, it produced a wealth of poets, novels, memories and films in the literary and art world. The Great War poets, the most famous ones being Seigfried Sassoon and Wilfed Owen, expressed the horrors of the frontline in a lucid, poetical and emotional way. They were the famous ones, but there also were a lot more poets who also wrote about this conflict equally as good including civilians. Also, there are many novels, such as from the German author Erich Maria Remarque who wrote from the viewpoint of a German soldier in his novel ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, which contains a really strong anti-war message. Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’ is another novel, semi-autobiographical as like Remarque’s book and both speak about the futility of it all, the mindlessness of those years. Even to this day their message is hard hitting and still as important as it was during the inter-war years. Films, such as Jean Renoirs ‘La Grande Illusion’, paint the conflict as almost gentlemanly – its deals with a group of French prisoners being held by the Germans in almost hotel like fashion who then escape. It is held as one of the best war films ever made and its message is anti-war. The modern authors that also have written about this conflict, such as Sebastian Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’, quite easily a modern classic, is a really hard hitting, emotional book about the war. Pat Barkers ‘Regeneration’ trilogy of books deal with a semi-historical account of the poets Sassoon and Owen, and is a great series. These however are just the tip of the iceberg; there are so many many more books that deal with this conflict and its futility.

I was reading yesterday in The Independent about the women munitions workers who also lost their lives and who are not recognised as having died in the conflict by the Government and Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I guess this sparked me to write this blog, maybe also because I have read so much literature about it as well. It holds a different league than World War Two literature in lots of ways; maybe because it was so barbaric and just futile. Today, our conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan was greeted with much scepticism by our western populations and if we compare it to how World War One was greeted, with cheering on the streets, great celebrations, with a lot of the Social Democratic Labour organisations actually supporting it including those who professed a belief in pacifism – a great fanfare if you will, then there is a marked difference. I then started researching the casualty figures for Britain; close to three-quarters of a million military personnel were lost during the Great War compared to about four-hundred thousand for the Second World War, which was far more widespread and global (figures from wikipedia). This is coming from a UK population of around forty million people. That is a hefty amount in all consideration – it goes to show how bloody it was.

So we all have our two minutes silence on the eleventh of November, remembering those killed in two very bloody world-wide conflicts of the first half of the twentieth century, both soldiers and civilians. We must also remember, not just those past wars, but also the modern day one in the middle east which is occurring today.

A Poem and an update.

I have missed a month in posting or updating this blog. I think my muse is either dead or drunk in some gutter howling at the moon with a gang of winos, which is where I am headed myself if I do not sort out my life. I guess I need to start doing something, but again this is always easier to talk about or discuss rather than actually taking steps to rectify the situation I am in. Actions speak louder than words they say, and this is true. I could probably write a few hundred words moaning about my current life situation like I have done previously on my blog, but I shall spare you the moan this time. Two years since my marriage disintegrated, and I have more or less turned myself into a wreck because I am still quite frankly reeling from what happened to me when I became homeless. They say forgiveness is divine – after all they claim Jesus forgave his abusers and his betrayers, and that would have been a very strong thing to have done, especially if Mel Gibsons film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ holds any semblance of historical truth, which is a very barbaric and disturbing movie of the final days of Jesus. But I digress. Some things I find hard to forgive and probably always will. I also presently feel as if I am under some kind of Sword of Damocles. I find this hard to explain, but I have this ‘feeling’ of impending doom, as if something bad is about to happen. My sensitivity picks things up and always has done. I try not to dwell on it however.

Next month is National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo) and I have one or two ideas floating around to maybe take part, to try and write fifty thousand words in thirty days. That is just under two thousand words a day, and if my muse sobers up then I would like to give this a go. Someone once told me that we all have a book inside us, and this I believe is so true because I think we are all just slightly unique, each one of us has different experiences we can draw on. I see it as a way of producing a first draft, or at least a method of actually getting one of my ideas down on paper (or rather Microsoft Word), and I am not in it to ‘win’ anything, or even probably to find a publisher, but rather I think I will attempt it for my own sake, my own challenge. Wish me luck.

I was going through some old poetry, and I suppose this is what sparked me to update wordpress. After all it is national poetry day today. I try to update this blog at least on a monthly basis, sometimes that doesn’t always work out. But re-reading some old things made me want to share one of them on here. There are a few poems currently on this site,  and one of the old ones is at the end of this post. This particular poem I wrote several years ago when I was reminiscing about my youth; it deals with a time of my life that was very important to me. A time when I was starting college and learning about society whilst I studied a Social Studies course which was an Access Course that allowed me to go onto University. That was nearly two decades ago. That, when you think about it, is a long long time  but to me it seems like it was almost yesterday  – such are the vagaries of time.

I am reading a lot of historical fiction presently. Bettany Hughes book on Helen of Troy is a must read, and puts new light onto who Helen of Troy could have been and her status in Bronze Age society, a status that Bettany Hughes argues was just as equal as men back three thousand years ago. An interesting read. Also reading a lot about King Arthur and the formation of Britain during the years after the Romans left these Isles, when the then Roman Emperor Honorius told us to ‘look to our own defences’, to defend from Anglo Saxon incursions. Really interesting period of UK history. Anyway, time to go. Poem below, titled ‘The Age of Enlightenment’. Comments are always pleasing!

The Age of Enlightenment
dawned
during youth;
questions about the rights
of man and beast
(but mainly about beast)
swam around the receptor
and archive of memories.

Diet was altered;
dead animals now
never entered the lithe, sprightly
holy temple,
causing an enhanced awareness
with a permanent fix.
Oh, dear narcotics
don’t you wish you were as clever?

Questioning words
flittering across wide open eyes,
creating a Brave New World
of alternate thought.
Mr Huxley, sir,
you lit the match
to start the fire
which spread fiercely,
consuming old habits
and thoughts,
turning to cinder
the ‘muck of ages’.

Like tendrils of smoke rising
and vanishing in the wind,
The ancien régime of
hindered thought
unhindered itself.
Enlightenment was here!

 

Love.

I remember those days,
Days of love and sun,
Sat in my room,
With sun throwing its beams through the window,
Hot summer days and sparkling, mystic nights;
And Love was flowing along its dream like there were no tomorrows.

Books were digested, devoured, loved.
Wisdom gained from the pages of history;
Words flowing along the river of knowledge,
Soaking into the consciousness.
Learning, just learning
About an ethos of understanding – and of compassion.

And I remember how things were;
The love made,
the sighs,
the rhythmic pulsing of naked bodies
Locked together in a passion
Which would fill the soul with its beauty, desire and charm.

And they were days of innocence;
Inexperience;
Of lustful longing and a heart full of desire;
Those warm summer days spreading their rays of warmth
Into an innocent heart full of a thirst for knowledge, of life,
For the ones I loved.