Sunday, November 10, 2013


Whether we label 11th November Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Veterans' Day or, Einherjar (the name given to 11/11 by followers of Asatru, Norse Heathenism), we all remember and honour those killed in, or as a result of battle. In England the date is marked by 2 minutes of silence at 11 am. Sombrely dressed dignitaries then lay poppy wreaths on Cenotaphs in cities throughout the nation to honour the dead of two world wars. Poppy emblems, symbols of remembrance, are sold during previous weeks, for people to wear in their lapels, the funds collected go towards support of ex-servicemen.

Back in England in the 1950s I attended an all-girls grammar school (very roughly equivalent to US High Schools). All our teachers were female, many of them older ladies, probably born in the early 1900s, all unmarried. It didn't strike me until many years later exactly why they were all unmarried. A whole generation of young men who might have been their husbands were slaughtered in World War One. Our English Literature mistress, Miss Milvain, led our study of the work of World War One poets. She was a tall, slender lady, with long, pure white hair loosely pulled back into a big "bun". She must have been a stunner as a young woman. I wonder if the poems she put before us held extra poignancy for her, and for her colleagues. She didn't tell us. We didn't ask. I think we should have asked, but we were young and gauche and unthinking.
This was one of the poems.
Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
--Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

By Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)


mike said...

“Grief is the ultimate unrequited love. However hard and long we love someone who has died, they can never love us back. At least that is how it feels....” Rosamund Lupton, Sister

Jude Cowell said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post. jc

R J Adams said...

Aye! And the 'sombrely dressed dignitaries' would send them all off to be slaughtered again without a moment's regret if it would enable them to hold onto, or increase, their power within their petty fiefdoms.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yep! :-(

Twilight said...

Jude ~ Thank you for reading it.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~ And that's the sombre truth. :-(