Break of day in the trenches

by awindram

My social media feeds, where far too much of my life is “lived”, are split between those celebrating Veterans Day and those observing Remembrance Day. For every American post or tweet extolling the living, there is a British post or tweet remembering the dead.   

As one cannot help but think back to World War I on November 11th, I’m reminded of a post I wrote early on in this blog’s existence about the differences in attitude, as I perceived them at the time, to World War I between the US and UK. It was an angry post written late at night in response to a glib Men’s Wearhouse advert that was set in the trenches. I surprised myself how angry that advert made me at the time. You can, if you wish, read the rant here, though the  commercial I railed against now appears to have disappeared entirely from the internet.

Or alternatively, your time would be so much better spent reading one of the War poets.

Break of day in the trenches

Isaac Rosenberg (1897 – 1918)

The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe, 
Just a little white with the dust.

Image: The Cheshire Regiment, public domain

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