10 July 2011

Summer Guns


Now light the candles; one; two; there’s a moth;
What silly beggars they are to blunder in
And scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame—
No, no, not that,—it’s bad to think of war,
When thoughts you’ve gagged all day come back to scare you;
And it’s been proved that soldiers don’t go mad
Unless they lose control of ugly thoughts
That drive them out to jabber among the trees.

Now light your pipe; look, what a steady hand.
Draw a deep breath; stop thinking; count fifteen,
And you’re as right as rain...
Why won’t it rain?...
I wish there’d be a thunder-storm to-night,
With bucketsful of water to sluice the dark,
And make the roses hang their dripping heads.
Books; what a jolly company they are,
Standing so quiet and patient on their shelves,
Dressed in dim brown, and black, and white, and green,
And every kind of colour. Which will you read?
Come on; O do read something; they’re so wise.
I tell you all the wisdom of the world
Is waiting for you on those shelves; and yet
You sit and gnaw your nails, and let your pipe out,
And listen to the silence: on the ceiling
There’s one big, dizzy moth that bumps and flutters;
And in the breathless air outside the house
The garden waits for something that delays.
There must be crowds of ghosts among the trees,—
Not people killed in battle,—they’re in France,—
But horrible shapes in shrouds—old men who died
Slow, natural deaths,—old men with ugly souls,
Who wore their bodies out with nasty sins.

. . . .
You’re quiet and peaceful, summering safe at home;
You’d never think there was a bloody war on!...
O yes, you would ... why, you can hear the guns.
Hark! Thud, thud, thud,—quite soft ... they never cease—
Those whispering guns—O Christ, I want to go out
And screech at them to stop—I’m going crazy;
I’m going stark, staring mad because of the guns.

July 10 ,1940. the 1st assault for Britain, World War II

photograph by  William Vandivert of  RAF ace pilot, South African Albert Gerald Lewis, standing on the wing of his plane after an engagement with enemy planes during the Battle of Britain, October 1940.

footnote-Siegfried Sassoon's poem "Repression of War" was written during World War I



  1. I so love your blog! This post and the poem is so moving. The photo of the pilot, his eyes and the way he is looking at the camera.
    Thanks for always bringing such wonderful subjects to think about
    Jamie Herzlinger

  2. oh that's beautiful.......over here at team gloria that reminds us of rupert brooke....
    IF I should die, think only this of me;
    That there's some corner of a foreign field
    That is for ever England.

    we remember studying that in a classroom in england and looking out of the window wondering how all that could have happened and yet it did.

  3. This hurts my heart--will the wars and ignorant follies of men ever end...

  4. Now I shall have to activate your search engine for the portrait missing here of his country's handsomest foxhunting man. But the posting is certainly in season.

  5. Jaimie, I am reading some of Sassoon's poems. He enters intersects my blog about Ottoline Morrell. Another of her would be conquests that could not quite digest her, just as he served during the war-he was very opposed to it.These are the things that intrigue me.

  6. Gloria, Jones, and remembering it-as generations do-should-one hopes- keep it from recurring. How soon we forget-and today we do go about our summers while war carries on-in ways little different from decades ago. Man still bears the ultimate loss-his Life.

  7. Laurent- I have to say- Albert Gerald Lewis is the handsomest of men, that was, I confess- my initial pull to the image.



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