Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remembrance

I will post something else on the eleventh, but since today is Remembrance Sunday, I think it fitting to mark it with a poem that, for me, encapsulates much of the bombastic optimism and sheer horror of the many wars that have been fought; but I like it for the piece ends with hope.

It is appropriate too, for Cecil Spring-Rice rewrote the first verse as "a reference to England and the sacrifice of those who died during the First World War".
Shortly before his departure from the US in January 1918, he re-wrote and renamed Urbs Dei, significantly altering the first verse to concentrate on the huge losses suffered by British soldiers during the intervening years.

I am sure that many commenters will level derision at your humble Devil, given his declarations on atheism (for the poem is about how Christians are bound to serve both country and god), and some will no doubt find its patriotism overblown and, possibly, offensive.

Ultimately, however, since one is commemorating, at least in part, those who died generations ago, I do not think that it is inappropriate to do so through a poem expressing values that they themselves would have shared (at the beginning of the wars, if not by the end).
I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Of course, as the Royal British Legion would no doubt wish to stress, the Poppy Appeal also aims to commemorate those who have fallen in more recent wars—men whom we should honour whatever your feelings about the reasons given by politico scum who lead our country into said conflicts.

The Poppy Appeal also helps and supports the soldiers who have been injured and traumatised in said wars and who have been, mostly, abandoned by our shabby, disgusting, corrupt and amoral politicos: once again, these brave men deserve our help.

Perhaps we should get our valiant politicos to swap their pensions with those of our soldiers? I am sure, as the architects of these wars and the supporters of the shabby treatment meted out to our soldiers, that MPs would be thrilled at the idea and only too pleased to acquiesce...

12 comments:

Shaun said...

I'm an atheist and I wholeheartedly subscribe to your sentiments in this post. Between 1916 and 1922 I had relatives fight and die in the Great War for the British Empire and relatives fight and die against the British Empire in the Anglo-Irish and subequent civil war.

It changes nothing with regards to my deep respect for the bravery and tenacity of those who fought in WW1 and gave their lives in the miserable trenches.

Boy on a bike said...

We used to sing a hymn at school (back in the days when you did that sort of thing at assembly) that must have been based on this poem. I can't remember the exact words, but this poem looks awfully familiar.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Boy,

It would have been this poem (minus the second stanza, which is considered inappropriate, apparently): it was set to music -- part of Jupiter -- by Holst.

DK

hsld said...

Good post DK, no sneering from me.

Chris Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Budgie said...

The first two verses are of (martial) patriotism. The third is of Christianity. That is: "another country" - so not this one; "most dear ... most great" - thus superior to "my country"; "her King" - Jesus; "faithful ... suffering ... soul by soul ... gentleness ... peace".

The poem acknowledges the depth of patriotism ("the love that pays the price"). But it sets above patriotism a call to something greater: Christian service.

Chris Paul said...

Try that again:

Posted an exclusive earlier about that scumbag Cyril Smith and his brother Norman boycotting wreath layings and so on because the local RBL would not rent an office from them. Bastards.

But this here Dorries exclusive may cheer us all up.

rory meakin said...

"some will no doubt find its patriotism overblown and, possibly, offensive."

offensive? Depressing.

Boy on a bike said...

I always found it a very uplifting thing to sing (and that's saying a lot, considering how out of key I can be).

Kev G said...

I never knew there had been a second, as in middle, verse, even though just on stylistic grounds it is probably best forgotten about.

The second verse of that National Anthem on the other hand ... ;)

2345 said...

Those who gave their lives in WWI would want all those who did exactly the same in WW2, the Falklands, Iraq & Afghanistan also recognized and remembered as they have in public services throughout Britain.

BBC's & media's bizarre focus on only one war is an insult to the unsung heroes who died in all others whilst serving Queen and country. It's also an insult to the families continuing to lose loved ones in current wars, especially as one involves lying labour politicians.

Chalcedon said...

Good post DK. I wore my poppy with pride. My mother's father lost his 4 older brothers in the Great war and my dad's father was wounded. Used to show me the bullet scar when I was a kid. My mother's brothers fought and survived WWII. Strangely enough if my family had followed the others to Australia, I would have been old enough (eventually) to win their birthday lottery and would have served in Vietnam!