Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sunday War Poet ...Author's choice ...David Ebsworth

I am delighted to welcome 

Author


Sharing his Sunday War Poem





So far as First World War poetry is concerned, I still remember reading Wilfred Owen's The Sentry for the first time. It would have been early 1963. The war in Vietnam was escalating. We'd just come through the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a member of a local cadet force, I was regularly involved in "Civil Defence" drills on how to survive a nuclear attack. It was a period of lunacy in human history almost as stark as the summer of 1914, and those final two lines have always stayed with me. I guess that, at the age of fourteen, I thought our lights were going out yet again - though this time for good. 




The Sentry ~ Wilfred Owen


We'd found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,
And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell
Hammered on top, but never quite burst through.
Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime
Kept slush waist high, that rising hour by hour,
Choked up the steps too thick with clay to climb.
What murk of air remained stank old, and sour
With fumes of whizz-bangs, and the smell of men
Who'd lived there years, and left their curse in the den,
If not their corpses. . . .
There we herded from the blast
Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last.
Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles.
And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping
And splashing in the flood, deluging muck —
The sentry's body; then his rifle, handles
Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.
We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined
"O sir, my eyes — I'm blind — I'm blind, I'm blind!"
Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids
And said if he could see the least blurred light
He was not blind; in time he'd get all right.
"I can't," he sobbed. Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids
Watch my dreams still; but I forgot him there
In posting next for duty, and sending a scout
To beg a stretcher somewhere, and floundering about
To other posts under the shrieking air.

Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,
And one who would have drowned himself for good, —
I try not to remember these things now.
Let dread hark back for one word only: how
Half-listening to that sentry's moans and jumps,
And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,
Renewed most horribly whenever crumps
Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath —
Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout
"I see your lights!" But ours had long died out.


***


David Ebsworth

is the author

of


The Jacobites' Apprentice The Assassin's Mark The Kraals of Ulundi




My thanks to David for sharing his personal choice of WW1 war poem and for explaining why
 The Sentry is important to him.


*~*~*


My Author's Choice of Sunday war Poem have been

Jane Cable
Claire Dyer
Karen Maitland
Elisabeth Gifford
David Ebsworth

My thanks to them all for giving so generously of their time and for their support of Jaffareadstoo.

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