Commonplace: Wilfred Owen, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? 
Only the monstrous anger of the guns. 
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle 
Can patter out their hasty orisons. 
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, 
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; 
And bugles calling for them from sad shires. 
What candles may be held to speed them all? 
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes 
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes. 
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall; 
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, 
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds. 

~ Wilfred Owen, "Anthem for Doomed Youth"
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Commonplace: John McRae, “In Flanders Fields”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place, and in the sky,

The larks, still bravely singing, fly,

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high!

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

~ John McRae, “In Flanders Fields”

Song of the Day: Tim Buckley, “Dolphins”

I was sitting in my department head’s office listening to 60s and 70s British folk, and just kind of checking in since he took a new job that begins in the Spring. I’ll be sad not to see Keith every day, but I’m happy for him. The new position is fantastic, and I’ve already made him promise we’ll still do lunch. I’m now making him a contemporary British folk mix. He’s going to put stuff on a CD for me, which may end up being a lot of Tim Buckley. Can’t think of better way to keep friendships than through music.

Commonplace: Jessie Pope, “The Knitting Song”

SOLDIER lad, on the sodden ground,

Sailor lad on the seas,

Can’t you hear a little clicketty sound

Stealing across on the breeze?

It’s the knitting-needles singing their song

As they twine the khaki or blue,

Thousands and thousands and thousands strong,

Tommy and Jack, for you.

Click — click — click,

How they dart and flick,

Flashing in the firelight to and fro!

Now for purl and plain,

Round and round again,

Knitting love and luck in every row.

The busy hands may be rough or white,

The fingers gouty or slim,

The careful eyes may be youthfully bright,

Or they may be weary and dim,

Lady and workgirl, young and old,

They’ve all got one end in view,

Knitting warm comforts against the cold,

Tommy and Jack, for you.

Knitting away by the midnight oil,

Knitting when day begins,

Lads, in the stress of your splendid toil,

Can’t you hear the song of the pins?

Clicketty, click — through the wind and the foam

It’s telling the boys over there

That every “woolly” that comes from home

Brings a smile and a hope and a prayer.

Click — click — click,

How they dart and flick,

Flashing in the firelight to and fro!

Now for purl and plain,

Round and round again,

Knitting love and luck in every row.

Commonplace: Dorothy Frances Gurney, “The Coming of the Colonies”

I OF the bleeding heart, bent head, and stricken tongue,

Old, old with years, and honours, and despairs,

Watch them go forth to fight and die, last heirs

And children of my womb, the happy young.

I took the challenge, by the oppressors flung,

I and my peers, — and far my beacon flares,

“Up, up, ye lion cubs, from out your lairs!”

Wide o’er the world my cry of need has rung.

They came, my splendid daughters — to the fray —

India and Australasia and the Isles,

Swart Afric, and my swift cold Canada —

With ardour, and with laughter and with smiles;

And, though my every son of Britain fall,

With these no man shall hold me as a thrall.

Commonplace: Edith Nesbit, “A Song of Peace and Honor”

We, men of England, children of her might,

With all our mother’s record-roll of glory,

Great with her greatness, noble with her name,

Drank with our mother’s milk our mother’s story,

And in our veins the splendor of her fame

Made strong our blood and bright;

And to her absent sons her name has been

Familiar music heard in distant lands,

Heart of our heart, and sinews of our hands,

England, our Mother, our Mistress and our Queen!

Out of the thunderous echoes of the past,

Through the gold dust of centuries, we hear

Her voice: “O children of a royal line,

Sons of my heart who hold your England dear,

Mine was the past, make ye the future mine

All glorious to the last!”

And, as we hear her, cowards grow to men,

And men to heroes, and the voice of fear

Is as a whisper in a deaf man’s ear

And the dead past is quick in us again.

Her robe is woven of glory and of renown,

Hers are the golden laden argosies

And lordship of the wild and watery ways,

Her flag is blown across the utmost seas;

Dead nations built her throne and kingdoms blaze

For jewels in her crown.

Her empire like a girdle doth enfold

The world; her feet on ancient foes are set;

She wears the steel-wrought blood-bright amulet

Wrought by her children in the days of old.

Yet in a treasury of such gems as these,

Which power and sovereignty and kingship fill

To the vast limit of the circling sun,

England, our Mother, in her heart holds still

As her most precious jewel, save only one,

The priceless pearl of peace —

Peace, plucked from out of the very heart of war

Through the long agony of strenuous years,

Made pure by blood and sanctified by tears,

A pearl to lie where England’s treasures are.

O peaceful English lanes, all white with may,

O English meadows where the grass grows tall,

O red-roofed village, field and farm and fold

Where the long shadows of the elm-trees fall

On the wide pastures which the sun calls gold,

And twilight dew calls grey;

These are the home, the happy cradle place

Of every man who has our English tongue,

Sprung from those loins from which our sires have sprung,

Heirs of the glory of our mighty race.

Brothers, we hold the pearl of priceless worth,

How dare we then to cast our pearl aside?

Is it not more to us than all things are?

Nay, peace is precious as the world is wide,

But England’s honor is more precious far

Than all the heavens and earth.

Were honor outcast from her supreme place

Our pearl of peace no more a pearl would shine,

But, trampled under foot of dogs and swine,

Rot in the mire of a deserved disgrace.

So, for our Mother’s honor, since it must,

Let peace be lost, but lost the worthier way,

Not trampled down, but given, for her sake,

Who forged of many an iron yesterday

The golden song that gold-tongued Fame shall wake

When we are dust, in dust;

For life and love and death and praise and blame,

And all the world, even to our very land,

Weighed in the balance are as a grain of sand

Against the honor of the English name!

~ Edith Nesbit, “A Song of Peace and Honor”

Commonplace: Herbert Asquith, “The Volunteer”

HERE lies a clerk who half his life had spent

Toiling at ledgers in a city grey,

Thinking that so his days would drift away

With no lance broken in life’s tournament

Yet ever ‘twixt the books and his bright eyes

The gleaming eagles of the legions came,

And horsemen, charging under phantom skies,

Went thundering past beneath the oriflamme.

And now those waiting dreams are satisfied

From twilight to the halls of dawn he went;

His lance is broken; but he lies content

With that high hour, in which he lived and died.

And falling thus, he wants no recompense,

Who found his battle in the last resort

Nor needs he any hearse to bear him hence,

Who goes to join the men of Agincourt.

~~ Herbert Asquith, “The Volunteer”

Commonplace: Cicely Hamilton, “Non-Combatant”

The First World War, or the Great War, began on 28 July 1914. It ended on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in 1918. Tuesday marks Remembrance Day or Veteran’s Day in the US. I’m teaching modernism in my British Literature class right now, and I can’t quite convey, have never been able to convey, the destructiveness of this war. That it was a war preached from the pulpit, that men were driven to slaughter by the hundreds of thousands in dark, dismal trenches. The poetry of the period, often brief, captures the despair and grief. This week, I’m doing commonplaces from those poets from The Great War Poetry project.


 

Before one drop of angry blood was shed

I was sore hurt and beaten to my knee;

Before one fighting man reeled back and died

The War-Lords struck at me.

They struck me down — an idle, useless mouth,

As cumbrous — nay, more cumbrous — than the dead,

With life and heart afire to give and give

I take a dole instead.

With life and heart afire to give and give

I take and eat the bread of charity.

In all the length of all this eager land,

No man has need of me.

That is my hurt — my burning, beating wound;

That is the spear-thrust driven through my pride!

With aimless hands, and mouth that must be fed,

I wait and stand aside.

Let me endure it, then, with stiffened lip:

I, even I, have suffered in the strife!

Let me endure it then — I give my pride

Where others give a life.

 

Song of the Day: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, “So Tired”

I read week 12 on the calendar folks. The grading has mounted due to the service work and advising. So Art Blakey is seeing me through. It’s been a long semester, and I don’t want to teach four separate preps back to back again anytime soon. Going from Jane Austen to cultural studies to comp 1 to Brit lit is dizzying enough. Doing it in a four hour marathon three days a week is alarmingly like tap dancing.