Today is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the end of the First World War. Instead of posting music or artwork, I’ve decided to post clips of All Quiet On the Western Front and poetry from the war.
Here is a clip of the battle. I haven’t seen this film in more than 10 years. I didn’t like it when I saw it the first time, but this scene does have a visceral power.
This is Easter Monday by Eleanor Farjeon. All the World War I poetry is found at this site.
In the last letter that I had from France
You thanked me for the silver Easter egg
Which I had hidden in the box of apples
You liked to munch beyond all other fruit.
You found the egg the Monday before Easter,
And said, ‘I will praise Easter Monday now –
It was such a lovely morning’. Then you spoke
Of the coming battle and said, ‘This is the eve.
Good-bye. And may I have a letter soon.’
That Easter Monday was a day for praise,
It was such a lovely morning. In our garden
We sowed our earliest seeds, and in the orchard
The apple-bud was ripe. It was the eve.
There are three letters that you will not get.
That poem has a gut punch at the end.
This is a clip of Paul visiting his former teacher’s classroom. The teacher had regaled the students with triumphant stories of glorious combat. At this point, Paul, refuses to tell the students accounts of heroism. The movie was routinely banned in countries who were fighting wars. This scene is partly why.
This is a poem I have shared before. It is one of my favorites, Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime …
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Lastly, I found a link online for BYU which contains the texts of documents from the war, and it has the text of the Armistice Proclamation.
In the US, we tend to forget the First World War. We weren’t involved in it that long, so we missed the horrors of the Somme and Verdun. But this was the first modern war. It featured chemical weapons. The death tolls of the battles are simply astounding.
Happy Armistice Day and Happy Veterans Day.