Example poetry

Poetry and war – Stabroek News

Embassy

As evening fell, the oppression of day rose

Distant peaks appeared, it had been raining

Through broad lawns and cultivated flowers drifted

The conversation of the highly qualified

Two gardeners watched them pass and assessed their

The shoes

A driver was waiting to read in the reader

It’s up to them to finish their exchange of views.

It looked like an image from private life.

Away no matter how good they wanted

The armies were waiting for a verbal error

With all the instruments to cause pain

And on the question of their charm depended

A devastated land, its terrorized cities

And all his young men killed.

– WH Auden

The Shield of Achilles

She looked over her shoulder

For the vines and the olive trees,

Well-Runned Cities in Marble

And ships on untamed seas,

But there on the shining metal

His hands had put in place

An artificial desert

And a sky like lead.

A lineless plain, bare and brown,

No blade of grass, no neighbor sign,

Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit,

Yet, gathered on its emptiness, stood

An unintelligible multitude,

A million eyes, a million boots lined up,

Expressionless, waiting for a sign.

From the air a faceless voice

Proved by statistics that a cause was just

In tones as dry and united as the place:

No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;

Column by column in a cloud of dust

They left enduring a belief

Whose logic has brought them, elsewhere, to grief.

She looked over her shoulder

For ritual pieties,

Heifers garlanded with white flowers,

Liberation and Sacrifice,

But there on the shiny metal

Where the altar should have been,

She saw by her flickering forge light

A whole different scene.

The barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary place

Where the bored officials lay (one made a joke)

And the sentinels were sweating because the day was hot:

A crowd of ordinary honest people

Watched from the outside and neither moved nor spoken

As three pale figures were led and bound

Has three posts planted upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, everything

Who has weight and always weighs the same

Rest in the hands of others; they were small

And could not hope for help and no help came:

What their enemies love to do has been done, their shame

It was the worst one could wish for; they lost their pride

And died like men before their bodies died.

She looked over her shoulder

For athletes at their games,

Men and women in a dance

Moving their soft limbs

Quick, quick, to music,

But there on the shining shield

His hands had laid no dance floor

But a field choked with weeds.

A ragged kid, aimless and alone,

Lounging on this vacation; a bird

Flew to safety from his well-directed stone:

That girls get raped, that two boys stab a third,

Were axioms to him, who had never heard

Of all the world where promises have been kept,

Or one could cry because another was crying.

The thin-lipped armourer,

Hephaestus, hobbling,

Shiny Breasted Thetis

cried out in dismay

To what the god had forged

To please his son, the strong

Achilles manslayer with an iron heart

Who wouldn’t live long.

– WH Auden

The hand that signed the paper

The hand that signed the paper cut down a city;

Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,

Doubled the globe of the dead and halved a country;

These five kings killed one king.

The mighty hand leads to a bowed shoulder,

The joints of the fingers are cramped with chalk;

A quill pen ended the murder

That ended the conversation.

The hand that signed the treaty raised the fever,

And the famine increased, and the locusts came;

Great is the hand that dominates

Man with a scribbled name.

The five kings count the dead but do not soften

Crusting the wound nor patting the forehead;

A hand rules pity as a hand rules the sky;

The hands have no tears to flow.

–Dylan Thomas

It is the poetry of war. Not that war is poetry, since it is antithetical to humanitarianism and aesthetics, as the poems reproduced here demonstrate. But, throughout history, poetry has been closely associated with war.

In modern thought it is difficult to see the poetics in a war as one might imagine in sport and in many forms of human endeavor or achievement. Beautiful wars do not exist, and these poems testify to it. However, as will be found in the history of poetry, verse has had an association with war as old as poetry itself.

This is not limited to Western poetry, as can be seen in traditional verse, oral poetry, in Africa, for example, or in the ancient scribal traditions of Chinese poetry. Homer’s great epic poems count war as glory and as heroic – at the very height of national honor. Over the centuries, poetry linked to war and heroism was the essence that sustained the human spirit, kept hope in a people accustomed to constant warfare in the Middle Ages. Chivalry was a philosophy born of horsemanship and honor in battle. War poetry was a considerable part of world literature.

Today we live in a more enlightened age where words, diplomacy, reason, humanitarianism will prevail in any conflict. Or so we thought, until Russian tanks landed in Ukraine at the end of February this year. The response from NATO and Western allies seems restrained and restrained because they are aware of the real possibility of a world war – an outcome they are trying to avoid. There are many indirect terrors and hardships for ordinary people around the world, even due to the carefully minimized measures taken by various governments to sanction and pressure Russia.

Many of them have economic effects that are already being felt well outside of Russia and Europe. Oil and international banking are badly affected, and even Guyana’s new oil does not make it immune to the repercussions. The common man will feel it in the rising prices of even basic consumer goods. The poems reveal the cruel and widespread hardships felt by people, genocide and devastation, cities and lands devastated by acts of war, insurgencies and totalitarianism.

The poem “Embassy” by WH (Wystan Hugh) Auden (1907 – 1973) has other titles. It is also called “The Embassy” and “Sonnet From China” and was written in 1936 – 1940 as part of a sonnet sequence when Auden and his companion Christopher Isherwood paid an extended visit to China as travel writers. Auden, an Anglo-American poet of socialist persuasion, possibly a Marxist, focused on the war, as he closely observed Japan’s invasion of China at this time. Ironically, he set the poem in the wealthy, well-educated, middle-class suburb where the embassy was located and brought it into stark contrast to the working class, the soldiers, and the mass destruction and terrifying havoc wrought by the war.

Auden’s other poem, “The Shield of Achilles” was published in 1955. Again, it exhibits a contrast between the idealism of war on the one hand and the harsh and tragic dislocation, human violation , the reduction and the plunder it causes on the other hand. The poem goes back to the classics, Greek mythology and the story of the great indestructible hero Achilles, famous for his victory in the Trojan War. Achilles’ mother looks over the armourer’s shoulder as he makes a new shield for her warrior son. She expects to see the glories of Greece carved in images on the shield, but instead the wise and far-sighted armorer carves images and images of slaughter and waste, which are the realities of the wars that Achilles will use the shield to lead. It’s as if the bright and shiny shield reflects the future.

“The hand that signed the paper” is by another of the great visionary poets of the 20th century, Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953). Like Auden, he observed the slow and steady rise of totalitarianism in Europe and the two world wars. This poem focuses on the great widespread chaos, the waste of lands and nations, and the annihilation of human life that can result from a single signature on a piece of paper. He opposes dictatorship and the absolute power that a totalitarian ruler has in his command over humanity. The world of the dead can double and a country halves its say.

Poetry can be a powerful force against war, dictatorship and interterritorial aggression. The 20th century witnessed the exceptional work of Seigfreid Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, who were voices against the First World War. But even at a time when epic poems glorified war, there were poetic voices against it. Witness the dramatic comedy Lysistrata by one of the great Greek playwrights of the 5th century BC. AD, Aristophanes.

Today, when the world thought it could slowly emerge from the oppression wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, it faces the prospect of continued hardship due to military aggression against Ukraine. .

A good example of the effects of World War II on the lives of people far from the actual war zone is the satirical “Dutty Tough” by Caribbean poet Louise Bennett. It is inspired by the Jamaican proverb, “Rain has fallen but dutty hard”, to show not only the deterioration of the economic means of the West Indians in times of war, but also the harmful effects on interpersonal relations. Today, sports, travel, commerce and many other things are either strangled or threatened.


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