Monday, January 19, 2015

As The 100th Anniversary Of The First Year Of World War I (Remember The War To End All Wars) Continues ... Some Remembrances-Writers’ Corner  

In say 1912, 1913, hell, even the beginning of 1914, the first few months anyway, before the war clouds got a full head of steam in the summer they all profusely professed their unmitigated horror at the thought of war, thought of the old way of doing business in the world. Yes the artists of every school but the Cubist/Fauvists/Futurists and  Surrealists or those who would come to speak for those movements, those who saw the disjointedness of modern industrial society and put the pieces to paint, sculptors who put twisted pieces of metal juxtaposed to each other saw that building a mighty machine from which you had to run created many problems; writers of serious history books proving that, according to their Whiggish theory of progress,  humankind had moved beyond war as an instrument of policy and the diplomats and high and mighty would put the brakes on in time, not realizing that they were all squabbling cousins; writers of serious and not so serious novels drenched in platitudes and hidden gabezo love affairs put paid to that notion in their sweet nothing words that man and woman had too much to do, too much sex to harness to denigrate themselves by crying the warrior’s cry and by having half-virgin, neat trick, maidens strewing flowers on the bloodlust streets; musicians whose muse spoke of delicate tempos and sweet muted violin concertos, not the stress and strife of the tattoos of war marches with their tinny conceits; and poets, ah, those constricted poets who bleed the moon of its amber swearing, swearing on a stack of seven sealed bibles, that they would go to the hells before touching the hair of another man. They all professed loudly (and those few who did not profess, could not profess because they were happily getting their blood rising, kept their own consul until the summer), that come the war drums they would resist the siren call, would stick to their Whiggish, Futurist, Constructionist, Cubist worlds and blast the war-makers to hell in quotes, words, chords, clanged metal, and pretty pastels. They would stay the course.  

And then the war drums intensified, the people, their clients, patrons and buyers, cried out their lusts and they, they made of ordinary human clay as it turned out, poets, artists, sculptors, writers, serious and not, musicians went to the trenches to die deathless deaths in their thousands for, well, for humankind, of course, their always fate  ….            

From 'The Song of Tiadatha '
In this war the Hun has brought us,
Some have learnt to make returns out,
Some have learnt to write out orders.
Some have learnt the way to kill Hulls,
Some to lead the men that kill them,
Some have learnt to cope with bully,
Learnt to shave with army razors,
Learnt to make the best of blizzards,
Mud and slush and blazing sunshine,
Learnt to coax a little comfort
Out of bivvies, barns and dug-outs,
Learnt of things they never dreamed of
In July of 1914.
And they all have learnt this lesson,
Learnt as well this common lesson,
Learnt to hold a little dearer
All tile things they took for granted
In July of 1914-
Whether it be Scottish Highlands,
Hills of Wales or banks of Ireland,
Or the swelling downs of Dudshire,
Or tile pavement of St. James's --
Even so my Tiadatha.
So I leave him and salute him
Back in his beloved London,
Knowing that the war has one thing
(If no others) to its credit --
It has made a nut a soldier,
Made a silk purse from a sow's ear,
Made a man of Tiadatha
And made men of hundreds like him.
And the world has cause to thank us
For that band of so-called filberts,
For those products of St. James's,
Light of heart and much enduring,
Straight and debonair and dauntless,
Grousing at their small discomforts,
Smiling in the face of danger.
Who have faced their great adventure,
Crossed through No Man's Land to meet it,
Lightly as they'd cross St. James's.
Eyes and heart still full of laughter,
Till the world had cause to wonder
Till tile world had cause to thank us
For the likes of Tiadatha.
Cendresselles, September 1918
Part XVII, "Home at Last," pp. 142-44.
Major Owen Rutter (1889-1944)

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