Saturday 1480 – 17th March 2012.
The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about war and in particular the effect going to war has on the soldiers. This in light of the terrible massacre in Afghanistan of 16 civilians, many of them children, apparently by a US soldier . The soldier is said to have been injured twice during previous tours of duty in Iraq ( why was he sent back to a war zone again??? ) and witnessed his friend getting his leg blown off the day before the shooting.
We can only guess at whether these were factors in making him commit this terrible act but undoubtedly war leaves it’s mark on those who we pay to engage in it.
I have often swung backwards and forwards between thinking we have to have soldiers to protect nations and being a pacifist and come down on the side of pacifism. It is easy for me to think and write this as I have the freedom to be able to write about what ever I want. Of course this freedom was achieved by the sacrifice of others or was it?
When I saw this white feather caught in thorns I thought of the poem below it, which has always moved me and I thought I’d share it with you..
It resonates still in today’s world of wars and for me the white feather symbolises those who break under duress or who do not want to fight and the thorns the damage that is done to them and subsequently by them to others.
All of them trapped.
You can hear Dannie Abse very movingly reading his poem here , which I recommend to you.
Or you can read it below.
Dull as a bat, said my mother
of cousin Sidney in 1940 that time he tried
to break his garden swing, jumping on it,
12 shoes ˜ at fifteen the tallest boy
in the class, taller than loping Dan Morgan
when Dan Morgan wore his father’s top hat.
Duller than a bat, said my father
when hero Sidney lied about his age
to claim rough khaki, silly ass;
and soon, somewhere near Dunkirk,
some foreign corner was forever Sidney
though uncle would not believe it.
Missing not dead please God, please,
he said, and never bolted the front door,
never string taken from the letter box,
never the hall light off lest his one son
came home through a night of sleet
whistling, We’ll meet again.
Aunt crying and raw in the onion air
of the garden (the unswinging empty swing)
her words on a stretched leash
while uncle shouted, Bloody Germans.
And on November 11th, two howls of
silence even after three decades
till last year, their last year,
when uncle and aunt also went missing,
missing alas, so that now strangers
have bolted their door and cut the string
and no-one at all (the hall so dark)
waits up for Sidney, silly ass.
Some of you may know that at the start of the 1st World War an organisation called The Order of the White Feather was started by an Admiral Charles Fitzgerald and women were encouraged to give men who had not joined up a white feather which at the time was considered a symbol of cowardice.
Many men whose temperaments were wholly unsuited to fighting joined up rather than be publicly humiliated or worse, but of course they were cannon fodder which was what the military needed for trench warfare. It must have been almost inevitable that these were the men most likely to be killed first.
Food for thought
See you next week or over on Photomania
There’s a reminder of what this blog is about here
You can see lots of photos on my other blog Helen’s Photomania here