.This, a little early, is Thursday's Poem du Jour. I leave at five a. m. tomorrow for an asteroid deflection symposium, so I won't have time tomorrow. And tonight? I'm giving up the very beginning of the World Series. That's how seriously I take this thing.
I know you'll understand. Because all intelligent people appreciate baseball and poetry. Sometimes they're the same thing.
But not today! Here's the post:
Two poems today! But fear not – they’re easy.
First, from Siegfried Sassoon:
Song-Books Of The War
by Siegfried Sassoon
In fifty years, when peace outshines
Remembrance of the battle lines,
Adventurous lads will sigh and cast
Proud looks upon the plundered past.
On summer morn or winter's night,
Their hearts will kindle for the fight,
Reading a snatch of soldier-song,
Savage and jaunty, fierce and strong;
And through the angry marching rhymes
Of blind regret and haggard mirth,
They'll envy us the dazzling times
When sacrifice absolved our earth.
Some ancient man with silver locks
Will lift his weary face to say:
"War was a fiend who stopped our clocks
Although we met him grim and gay."
And then he'll speak of Haig's last drive,
Marvelling that any came alive
Out of the shambles that men built
And smashed, to cleanse the world of guilt.
But the boys, with grin and sidelong glance,
Will think, "Poor grandad's day is done."
And dream of those who fought in France
And lived in time to share the fun.
No explication needed here, eh? Except for the fact that he was dead wrong. This poem was published in 1918, so it was about WWI (then known as the Great War or, rhetorically, the “war to end all wars,” meaning that many expected it to be the last one ever), which was so grim and desperate that even today nobody fantasizes about fighting in it. His point is still valid, though. There are WWII re-enactors today, and lots of people who fantasize about it. My father was in that war. He never talked about it. He was a farm kid who owned guns and hunted. He never fired a gun again in his life. Draw your own conclusions.
The second poem is as follows:
The Butchers At Prayer
Each nation as it draws the sword
And flings its standard to the air
Petitions piously the Lord—
Vexing the void abyss with prayer.
O irony too deep for mirth!
O posturing apes that rant, and dare
This antic attitude! O Earth,
With your wild jest of wicked prayer!
I dare not laugh . . . a rising swell
Of laughter breaks in shrieks somewhere—
No doubt they relish it in Hell,
This cosmic jest of Earth at prayer!
Not exactly subtle. You’ve noticed I left off the poet’s name. Well, it was Don Marquis. Wait... you say. That sounds familiar. Yep. He was the guy who wrote Archy and Mehitabel, the lighthearted stories about an alley cat and a vers libre cockroach. Funny man. Bitter poem. Draw your own conclusions.