My Sunday Poem … # 15

My Sunday Poem … # 15


A painting by John Singer Sargent. ‘Gassed’, 1919. The most terrifying new weapon was gas, whose first major use occured at Ypres, in April 1915, when the Germans released a lethal mist of chlorine that killed, disabled, or panicked hundreds of French and Canadian troops. Gas was used by both sides during the Great War.

One hundred years ago the world was in the grip of the Great War. (1914-1918). The horrors and deprivations of trench warfare visited upon the combatants on both sides were almost without boundary. New weapons technology and almost unlimited manpower led to four years of mass slaughter and misery. The widespread use of chemical warfare was a distinguishing feature of the conflict. . Gases used included chlorine, mustard gas and phosgene. The casualties caused by gas attacks were relatively light when compared to those caused by artillery. But its use and effect were absolutely horrifying …

I wrote today’s poem in Norfolk shortly after reading ‘Dulce et decorum est’ by war poet Wilfred Owen. In it he describes the horrifying consequences of a gas attack. It is a such a powerful poem. The imagery is brutal and unforgettable. Owen himself was killed in action on 4 November 1918 exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice which ended the war. He was just 25 years old.


The Spring Offensive

the trench-men are in masks
they crouch as the cup of passing fear
moves from mouth to mouth
from soul to soul

they are statues in a twilight
half-men encased in mud
lost in the swirling poisonous mist
some to drown
some to linger
on long-forgotten shores

and in the stupor
minds and bodies are stunned
dulled and twisted beyond belief
in the drunken horror of noise
memory and fate
lie hopelessly scarred

not even their dreams
can save them now
their half-held dreams of love
trapped between
The sunset and the dawn



4 responses to “My Sunday Poem … # 15

  1. Sadly, I have to question whether we have really learned anything from it all, or whether we have just sanitized the process a little. I have never grasped the rationale that killing can result in peace. Of course killing can remove a component of the perceived problem, but there are always going to be ramifications and perspectives which support the idea of retaliation.

    Way back in the 60’s, when we were living under the cloud of a potential nuclear war with the USA and USSR posturing, and the Ban The Bomb marches were prevalent, there was a poster which made the point very clearly. I have para-phrased (the bracketed area) because the language used was very effective, although could be offensive to some people:

    “Fighting for peace is like (making love) for virginity.”

    It says it all! 🙂

    • Hi. Yes, it most certainly does. So much like the idea of Donovan’s Universal Soldier.
      When we call something a war then it gives excuses to behave in a certain way. We are, quite literally, born fighters.
      Hey … I just don’t know.
      Another question … if peace breaks out … where from ?

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