Stagecraft & Poetry

From “Bullets and Mud: a stage poem inspired by Wilfred Owen”:

[…]

There’s Death waiting to shave me

                  With his scythe

 

I told my brother

I know I shall be killed

But this is the only place

That I can make my protest from

 

I came to help these boys

By leading them as well

As an officer can

By watching their sufferings

That I may speak as well

As a pleader can

 

After all the shells we’ve been through

And the gas

These bullets are a gentle rain

From heaven

 

Or, they are arrowheads of political error

And insincerity on which young men

Are being sacrificed

 

 

Death’s not my enemy

Though I can’t stand

The green thick odour of his breath

My enemies are those who talk

Of “attrition” and “sustaining damage”

Those whose imaginations have shrunk

To the size of a flag, those who still believe

A corpse missing half a face

Has any use of nationality

 

I have been urged by an earnest viola

To lay my chest to the ground

And submit to the pounding shells

The newest rhythm in the earth

 

 

I was reborn through Keats

And reared again by sweet Sassoon

But why poetry, I could not say

Except that it gives me a strange solitude

When I resort to it and stranger

Friends when I resort to them

And even if I don’t know why poetry

Or what I really want I do know

What I don’t want:

Preserve me from old women

Without wit or wisdom

Preserve me from young women

With gush and no beauty

Preserve me from women

Of beauty and no charm; but take

No measures against women of charm

And no beauty, for they are the sugar

Of the earth

Preserve me from men in waistcoats

Shirt cuffs and braces of a Sunday afternoon

Preserve me from the man who sits

In stocking feet of an evening

And scratches his big toe with his heel

Preserve me from the youth

Who carries a pencil in his right ear;

But preserve the cigarette in the ear of a Tommy

For it is his last

Preserve me from people who eat eggs

When I don’t want any

Preserve me from all ships

In glass bottles, plush chairs

Group photographs, flowers under glass

Shades and shells-pictures-frames

 

And especially preserve me

From armchair generals and politicians

Who prolong suffering for their own ends

 

[…]

 

Read the whole thing here

 

Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen, with notes

 

Wilfred Owen, 1893 – 1918

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