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The Jehoshua Novels


Those Green Hills Of France

America this Sunday observes Veterans Day, celebrating the service of all U.S. military veterans – not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors America’s fallen while in service. The rest of the world is observing Remembrance Day, however, a day to recall and mourn the dead of all nations, whether civilian or servicemen, in all wars. The origin of the date for both observances is clear – it was the eleventh minute of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 when the guns finally fell silent on abttlefields that had eviscerated an entire generation of European youth – and the two didn’t diverge until 1954.

That the U.S. has disassociated itself from the wider world in this remembrance – just as it has disassociated it’s own May Day from the international celebration of workers and their rights – may be one of the foremost signs that the “accidental’ Empire is doing some propaganda spin on its populace, but that’s a discussion for another time.

I was brought up in Europe and feel that Remembrance Day is something I should mark. I mourn the dead of every war – in uniform or out, of every color and creed. War is a terrible thing and people always die without need in war, although the modern American way of waging it tends to obscure that somewhat for those on the American “home front”. Here are a couple of pieces from British war poets, In Remembrance.

Wilfred OwenDulce Et Decorum Est

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 a 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.

Wilfred GibsonBack

They ask me where I’ve been,
And what I’ve done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn’t I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands . . .
Though I must bear the blame
Because he bore my name.

Bonus read: “Vast left” at Correntewire.

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