Friday, April 06, 2007

Remembering Vimy

As time came to commemorate the 90th anniversary of this event, I decided to read a book about World War I. John Wilson's YA novel And in the Morning is told mainly through one man's diary entries. These are embellished by news clips, memorabilia, and poems. Although the book wasn't as powerful as Charles Yale Harrison's Generals Die in Bed, I'll admit to a few tears at the end.

The novel, with its inclusion of poems, made me want to find other work from and about that era. Work by and John McCrae, of course, but also by others -- Charles Hamilton Sorley, Isaac Rosenberg, Charlotte Mew, Siegfried Sassoon, Laurence Binyon...

Here is one of the classics from that time, Wilfred Owen's "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 now 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.
There's a website that's running the names of all the Canadians who died in the Battle for Vimy Ridge. The names begin rolling on April 8 (Easter Sunday) at sunset.

They called World War I 'the war to end all wars' yet obviously, were wrong. Somehow, we must find a way to bring about an end to all wars.


Janet Vickers said...

To your question - how can we put an end to war - may I recommend this article by American playright Robert Philbin which appears in this months nthposition online magazine.

hg said...

Thank you for the tip, Janet. However, despite the piece's many interesting points and historical data, I'm afraid I don't quite see it as a way to end war. Nonetheless, I do appreciate being reminded that we are taking steps (albeit, painfully slow, it seems) to civilise ourselves.
I always appreciate your thoughtful comments.