Saturday, 1 August 2009

The last two British surviorsof World War 1 have died,Please a moment of Silence.

British soldiers

Two of the last British survivors of World War I have died. Henry Allingham's funeral takes place today, with the funeral of Harry Patch to follow next week. To mark the occasion, we asked Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, to write a poem.


In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
You walk away.

You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too-
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.

You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.


jim davis said...

It is very different starting at death and working backwards, and in a strange way it makes the poem even more poignant.

yvonneh said...

the poem is so meaningful, i am not ashamed to say it made me cry, my grandad died at ypres. WE SHALL REMEMBER THEM

jim davis said...

You crying Yvonne, blow me and here I was thinking you had a swinging brick where your heart should be.

JohnB said...

We have much to be grateful for.

The Editor said...

updated 9:54 a.m. PT, Thurs., Aug 6
WELLS, England - Veterans, townsfolk and soldiers from former enemies paid tribute to Britain's last World War I infantry veteran Thursday in a service that celebrated his wish to unite all nations in peace.

Hundreds lined the main street to watch Harry Patch's coffin, shrouded in a Union flag, roll down the narrow road leading to the cathedral in this town in southwest England. As the hearse passed, townspeople fell in behind, walking in silent tribute.

Gen. Richard Dannatt, the top commander of Britain's army, attended the service at Wells Cathedral, and an honor guard was drawn from The Rifles regiment, successor to Patch's unit.

JohnB said...

I think he was about 114 years old, and he was the only one that made it through.