A blog for Senior Project 1 about sonnets and trenches
Pro Patria Mori
Friday, May 20, 2016
Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
exhibit at Tower of London commemorating every 888,246 British and Colonial
military fatality with a ceramic red poppy.
CC BY 3.0
The past posts have covered a number of British poets who served in the
Great War and their poetry. Some of their poetry had themes of nationalism
and romanticism. Others explored the horrors of war and disenfranchisement
with inherited values. Their poetry were documents of their experiences on
the Western Front, published to citizens back home, and save for us today.
Their poetry was useful in a number of ways.
These poems give a view into the trenches of the Great War, for history
today or journalism then. Industrialization had changed the landscape of
the world, and made the Great War a first of it’s kind. In a changing world
without certainty, the horror of the war shocked people and left them without
hope. With empty promises of glory and honor, people questioned the values
handed down to them from previous generations.
. Ernst was an early surrealist and veteran of the Great War.
Previously, we’ve mentioned the quote of Gertrude Stein popularized by
Ernest Hemingway. “That is what you are. That’s what you all are … all of
you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.”
This aimlessness and disbelief of the people informs the art following the war.
From Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, “‘Listen Jake… don’t you ever get the
feeling that all your life is going by and you are not taking advantage of it?'”
And from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, “Thirty — the
promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know,
a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm, thinning hair.”
Not only are there themes of despair and pain, but there is also a questioning
of traditions. Namely, a strict adherence to aesthetics.
We see striking art movements creating the new modern art.
The despair and loss of faith in these poems did foreshadow modern art,
but the poems inform more than art. Remembrance Day is a memorial of British
and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Great War.
Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom is November 11 in accordance with the
signing of the armistice in 1918. The remembrance poppy used in commemoration
on Remembrance Day is inspired from In Flanders Filed by John McCrae.
The poem has visuals of the poppy flowers in the French countryside.
The title of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est references the line
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori from the lyric poem Odes by
Roman poet Horace.
The line translates to It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country and
know as the Old Lie. The concept of honor and glory in war is centuries old,
and contemporary in modern nationalism. As war is still an important part of
our world, remembering the costs and experiences of war is meaningful in
our handling and attitudes of conflicts.
The field poppy, Papaver rhoeas, the remembrance poppy is based on.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
CC BY-SA 2.0
† - supplementary examples
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.