War Poems

Darkness of winter is upon us and the mum-in-law is sleeping very badly, if at all, worrying about what is happening in the world, about terrorists being arrested only a few miles away from what used to feel like a safe corner of the world. I have a bit of a headace myself, and decide to take the Sunday off, looking at the photos from this summer, which I have intended to blog. I start with Salisbury, and find this plaque from Salisbury Cathedral, which caught my eye; I recognized the name of the war poet who died so terribly young.

IMGP9135 (2)The plaque says: “In proud and unfading memory of Edward Wyndham Tennant, 4th Batt. Grenadier Guards, eldest son of Lord and Lady Glenconner, who passed to the fuller life in the battle of the Somme 22nd of September 1916 Aged 19 years. He gave his earthly life to such matter as he set great store by: the honor of his country and his home. And over his portrait, it says: “When things were at their worst he would go up and down in the trenches cheering the men, when danger was greatest, his smile was loveliest.”

Pretty words, but what wouldn´t he have been able to do in the world if he had lived? And what about all the other people who died in that war alone, about 10 million military deaths and 7 million civilian deaths. The numbers are impossible to comprehend.

Re-incarnation, by Edward Wyndham Tennant:

I too remember distant golden days
When even my soul was young; I see the sand
Whirl in a blinding pillar towards the band
Of orange sky-line ‘neath a turquoise blaze –
Some burnt-out sky spread o’er a glistening land)
– And slim brown jargoning men in blue and gold,
I know it all so well, I understand
The ecstasy of worship ages-old.
Hear the first truth: The great far-seeing soul
Is ever in the humblest husk; I see
How each succeeding section takes its toll
In fading cycles of old memory.
And each new life the next life shall control
Until perfection reach eternity.

(Ramparts, Ypres, July 1916) You find more of his poems here.

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We have been discussing the UN Child convention in class, and particularly this wording, in article 38, has upset quite a few: “States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest“. Considering that children are defined as those under 18, the convention does actually condone drafting children into armed forces. Of course, in actuality, many much younger children live as soldiers; perhaps for some, joining up is the best option for survival.

Tennant was a priviliged young man – some would say he was not much more than a child, particularly by today´s standards – but that didn´t protect him. I find it incomprehensible that humanity still can not solve it´s conflicts any other way.

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2 thoughts on “War Poems”

    1. Zola said that it’s impossible to feel sympathy in any real sense with millions of dead -it’s too abstract – but one suffering horse can make us cry. Like the face of one young man who never really had a chance.

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