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"We will remember them"

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

"We will remember them"


"Two of the last British survivors of World War I have died. Henry Allingham's funeral takes place today, with the funeral of Harry Patch to follow next week. To mark the occasion, [the BBC] asked Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, to write a poem.


In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
You walk away.

You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too-
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.

You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would. "

Click here to hear Carol Ann Duffy read the poem.


The Great War and the War to End All Wars- thank you for your blog. What an amazing and dynamic period of history those two men lived through.
Lionheart   Thursday, July 30, 2009
Absolutely. My grandmother was born in 1908 and died in 2004, so although she didn't live as long as these two gentlemen, the changes she saw in day-to- day life were staggering. I was always imensely impressed with her ability to adapt and take on new technologies, and highly amused at the speed of her application if it involved her family!
VimesFan   Friday, July 31, 2009
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