Michael Rosen: The Pig-man

The tide of war retreated across the suburbs

leaving gas-masks in attics, a man with one leg

on the bench by the library, an air-raid shelter

in the park which one day, the kid with the

most nerve took us down and where we found…

via Michael Rosen: The Pig-man

Nineteen-Fourteen — Rupert Brooke • National Poetry Day 2 October #NPDLive

Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke 1887-1915

National Poetry Day

As this year’s theme for today’s National Poetry Day (UK) is ‘Remember’, I give you Nineteen-Fourteen by Rupert Brooke. We must always remember that the world went to war one hundred years ago and that it was not ‘A War to End All Wars’. While the élite take ever more control over our lives and use war to put money in their pockets, remembering and learning from history becomes increasingly important. Politicians have to be stopped from ruining people’s lives time and again.

Brooke’s sonnets may be on the sentimental side and the poet himself have experienced only one day of action during the evacuation at Antwerp before succumbing to an infection, but I believe the poem, and its author’s association with pre-war innocence, has the power to bring us up short, reminding us that war is bloody and pointless.  Even the first line — Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour — shows how contemporary propaganda swept up eager young men to be slaughtered in the name of that dangerous concept, patriotism.

Nineteen-Fourteen

I. Peace

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

II. Safety

Dear! of all happy in the hour, most blest
He who has found our hid security,
Assured in the dark tides of the world at rest,
And heard our word, ‘ Who is so safe as we?’
We have found safety with all things undying,
The winds, and morning, tears of men and mirth,
The deep night, and birds singing, and clouds flying,
And sleep, and freedom, and the autumnal earth.
We have built a house that is not for Time’s throwing.
We have gained a peace unshaken by pain for ever.
War knows no power. Safe shall be my going,
Secretly armed against all death’s endeavour;
Safe though all safety’s lost; safe where men fall;
And if these poor limbs die, safest of all.

III. The Dead

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There’s none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.

IV. The Dead

Dear! of all happy in the hour, most blest
He who has found our hid security,
Assured in the dark tides of the world at rest,
And heard our word, ‘ Who is so safe as we?’
We have found safety with all things undying,
The winds, and morning, tears of men and mirth,
The deep night, and birds singing, and clouds flying,
And sleep, and freedom, and the autumnal earth.
We have built a house that is not for Time’s throwing.
We have gained a peace unshaken by pain for ever.
War knows no power. Safe shall be my going,
Secretly armed against all death’s endeavour;
Safe though all safety’s lost; safe where men fall;
And if these poor limbs die, safest of all.

V. The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah