Posted by: mcfinder | July 30, 2009

Poem for the last veterans of WWI

The BBC has asked the poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, to write a poem to commemorate the passing of two of the last WW1 veterans, Henry Allingham (who’s funeral, with full military honours is today), and Harry Patch, who’s funeral is scheduled for next week.

The poem is vivid, powerful and moving, I have transcribed it in full here (hope there is no copywright infringements by doing this!) alternatively you can see it (and hear the poem being read)  on the BBC website

LAST POST

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
You walk away.

You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too-
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-
and light a cigarette.
There’s coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.

You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.


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