Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wartime Soldier, Wartime Child

In observation of Veterans Day . . .
# 1.
A hopeful thought from the past, hasten the day:

"Though I have been trained as a soldier,
and participated in many battles,
there never was a time when, in my opinion,
some way could not be found
to prevent the drawing of the sword.
I look forward to an epoch when a court,
recognized by all nations,
will settle international differences."

Ulysses S. Grant, 1822 - 1885
Commanding General of the United States Army, 1864 to 1865
18th President of the United States, 1869 - 1877

# 2.
I first came across the following poem just a few days after the 9 / 11 disaster, and it seemed almost uncannily appropriate in a backward - looking kind of way. It is the third section of a longer sequence entitled "Wartime Child" by Liverpool poet Adrian Henri, one of the more-quoted authors on this blog.

It doesn't seem the same place after dark.
In the Park they've taken away the railings*
to make guns. As soon as the sun's gone down
the whole town seems changed: it's strange,
you can't tell where the pavement is.
Auntie Margaret fell over someone's bike
the other night. Only a pale blue light
from cars. Of course, you can see the stars.
We saw one once Dad said was Mars.
When there's a moon the barrage balloons
shine like silver. So that the Germans
won't know where they are, there's no names
on the stations. We can't tell, either.
It smells of steam and soldiers sleep
on kitbags. Sometimes the Yanks give us
chewing-gum. Mum says all the shops
used to be lit up, just like you see them
in America on the cinema.
It must be nice with all the lights.

*My mother-in-law Rosanne Bristow McCartney, raised in a small village outside of Liverpool, once explained to me that after all the gates and railings in the Liverpool neighborhoods had been confiscated by the army, it was discovered that they were the wrong metal to use for ammunition, so piles of beautiful old iron work were just scrapped. The homeowners never got their pieces back and just had to build up wooden replacements instead. More fruitless loss. More waste.

I hate waste!

# 3.
Last year on Armistice Day, I quoted Rhett Butler's assessment of the Civil War as it appears in Gone With The Wind. Allow me to repeat once again:

"I'm angry. Waste always makes me angry,
and that's what all this is, sheer waste."

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