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The annual poem: Remembrance: Old soldiers at the Cenotaph - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The annual poem: Remembrance: Old soldiers at the Cenotaph

Remembrance: Old Soldiers at the Cenotaph


The Bath chair or the Zimmer frame,
The agèd, gnarled, claw-like hand:
Was it to this that heroes came
In England’s green and pleasant land?


Do generations give just due
To those who faced the direst foe:
The Senior Service and the Few,
The BEF of long ago?


Burma – (Blenheim, Ramillies –),
The Mons Canal, El Alamein,
The ancient wars that won the peace
Are figured in their names again;


The trenches of the Kaiser’s war,
The aerodromes at grass in Kent,
The surge of ships in seas afar,
The bagpipes in the Orient –


‘Old men forget’?  No.  These persist,
Though backs are bent and eyes are blear,
The best who graced the Army List
When backs were straight and eyes were clear.


Or do they wish they slept beside
Their fellows who will not grow old,
The proven true however tried,
Refined from dross and wholly gold?


Ghost-comrades in a rank and file
That reaches back past Waterloo
Fall in behind them – with a smile,
That tells the warrior’s point of view.


The long, thin, red, unbroken line
Of history and struggle shared
Makes glories that will long outshine
The simple facts our school texts blared.


And these, now spent with weight of days,
Yet stand erect in heart and thought,
And match the bovine, staring gaze
Of those who live because they fought;

These yet, as honour fades and goes,
In times made fat and dull with peace,
Enjoy the warrior’s right repose
Who paid in blood for civil ease.



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2 comments or Leave a comment
kestrelsparhawk From: kestrelsparhawk Date: November 16th, 2010 02:33 am (UTC) (Link)


These memorials of yours have been making me ache. I know the past, but see the present. Tolkien's observations about how LOTR resonates not of the 2nd World War, but the first -- where he lost the majority of his circle of friends from college --were the first thing I thought of here.

Sometimes I worry that all the wars were a waste, and I sometimes worry the future ones won't be.
tigersilver From: tigersilver Date: November 19th, 2010 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)
My father was a Camoflauge Engineer in WWII. He joined up as an enlisted man when the Air Force wouldn't take him (bum eye), despite the nervous young wife and the not-quite-two year old son. He was at Bulge and in Ardennes, the Gold Coast and even into Germany proper. Spent his time chasing madly across what was left of France, disguising train cars and bridges, when he wasn't stationed 'somewhere in England', hiding fields of aircraft and so forth. He was the eldest in his cadre but of course he did not die the soonest; instead retired safely out (only to be presented with the divorce papers by the nervous young wife's nosy Parker mother, thanks ever so) and ended as a Major in the Reserves, and immensely proud of it.
I remember war stories; I heard them nearly daily from my father. I've watched every film, every documentary, met his old comrades and paged through albums of the amazing photos that are like real-lfe magic--netting and spattered paint; canvas and butcher paper in some cases, all rendering an army's bulky, by-Rosie-riveted, seemingly impossible-to-hide supply lines and war machines invisible to the enemy eye.
It was perhaps the proudest thing he ever did, I believe (other than sire children, that is) and he is honoured for it by my family, daily, at the least. But it pleased him far more that *his* small story was not a tale of lonely dedication, nor even especially singular, but a symptom of a widespread, grassroots uprising to designed specifically to overthrow the grip of a madman. I've met them, these men and women, who would've died for me and mine and heard tales of the ones who actually did. There's history in their wrinkled old hands, I think.
So, yes, I do remember, at least, and I'll join you in this grave toast and marking of the moment, ever after. Wihtout them all, I wouldn't have been a gleam.
Hope all is well, Tiger
2 comments or Leave a comment