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| Posted By: on: 11/12/2000 10:48:21 EST
Subject: RE: Veterans' Day, 2000
While this is technically off topic for this group, it nevertheless is appropriate to remember the true meaning of this day. So, with some indulgence, here goes...
The clocks finished chiming upon the last stroke of the hour. As they stopped chiming, the sounds of the guns sputtered out and silence fell across the war-torn landscape of Western Europe. At 11:00 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year 1918, the savage butchery of the Great War, the War to End All Wars, ended. As the armistice took hold, the butcher's bill for World War I came due. Tens of millions of good young men died a hideous death, or had their lives forever ruined, for no apparent reason. Great expanses of Western Europe were forever rendered uninhabitable. Obscure places no one had ever heard of became burned in the world's collective consciousness, places with names like Passchendale, Ypres, Belleau Wood, Chateau Thierry, the Somme and the Marne. An entire generation of the flower of Europe was, in a four year period, largely eradicated.
One of those brave young men was Lt. Wilfred Owen. English poet. From early youth he wrote poetry, much of it at first inspired by religion. He became increasingly disapproving of the role of the church in society, and sympathetic to the plight of the poor. In 1913, he went to France and taught English there until 1915. Owen made the difficult decision to enlist in the army and fight in World War I (1914-1918). He entered the war in January 1917 and fought as an officer in the Battle of the Somme but was hospitalized for shell shock that May. In the hospital he met Siegfried Sassoon, a poet and novelist whose grim antiwar works were in harmony with Owen's concerns. Under Sassoon's care and tutelage, Owen began producing the best work of his short career; his poems are suffused with the horror of battle, and yet finely structured and innovative. Owen's use of half-rhyme (pairing words which do not quite rhyme) gives his poetry a dissonant, disturbing quality that amplifies his themes. He died one year after returning to battle and one week before the war ended in 1918. Owen was awarded the Military Cross for serving in the war with distinction. Full recognition as a highly esteemed poet came after Owen's death.
Lt. Owen was a gifted warrior-poet who left behind touching and moving reminders of the reasons why war is so brutal, so unforgiving. In the spirit of Veteran's Day, I offer a couple of examples.
Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Anthem for Doomed Youth
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
On this Veteran's Day, let us take a moment to remember the sacrifices of those brave men who gave the last full measure of their devotion, as Abraham Lincoln said another November a lifetime earlier. Let us particularly remember the service and sacrifice of those millions of brave good men who gave of themselves to give us the country we live in today.
That day Wilfred Owen's brother was on a ship. At about 11:00 that day. He came into his cabin and discovered a very welcome, but strange sight. His brother Wilfred was sitting bolt upright in a chair and staring at him. "Wilfred!" cried the brother, "How did you get here? I say is the war over?" Before he finished his sentence Wilfred had vanished. True story.