Sunday, November 12, 2006

poetae mortui

Nästan klockan elva på aftonen igår den 11 november (elfte i elfte, för den mer trögfattade delen av publiken) ringde frater och reciterade hela Sassoons A letter home för att vi i högtidlig andakt skulle minnas de som en gång stupade i skyttegravarna (den ska helst läsas högt av en vagt onykter broder som fått sig en grogg för mycket under sin privata minnestund):


HERE I’m sitting in the gloom
Of my quiet attic room.
France goes rolling all around,
Fledged with forest May has crowned.
And I puff my pipe, calm-hearted,
Thinking how the fighting started,
Wondering when we’ll ever end it,
Back to Hell with Kaiser send it,
Gag the noise, pack up and go,
Clockwork soldiers in a row.
I’ve got better things to do
Than to waste my time on you.


Robert, when I drowse to-night,
Skirting lawns of sleep to chase
Shifting dreams in mazy light,
Somewhere then I’ll see your face
Turning back to bid me follow
Where I wag my arms and hollo,
Over hedges hasting after
Crooked smile and baffling laughter.
Running tireless, floating, leaping,
Down your web-hung woods and valleys,
Garden glooms and hornbeam alleys,
Where the glowworm stars are peeping,
Till I find you, quiet as stone
On a hill-top all alone,
Staring outward, gravely pondering
Jumbled leagues of hillock-wandering.


You and I have walked together
In the starving winter weather.
We’ve been glad because we knew
Time’s too short and friends are few.
We’ve been sad because we missed
One whose yellow head was kissed
By the gods, who thought about him
Till they couldn’t do without him.
Now he’s here again; I’ve seen
Soldier David dressed in green,
Standing in a wood that swings
To the madrigal he sings.
He’s come back, all mirth and glory,
Like the prince in fairy story.
Winter called him far away;
Blossoms bring him home with May.


Well, I know you’ll swear it’s true
That you found him decked in blue
Striding up through morning-land
With a cloud on either hand.
Out in Wales, you’ll say, he marches,
Arm in arm with oaks and larches;
Hides all night in hilly nooks,
Laughs at dawn in tumbling brooks.
Yet, it’s certain, here he teaches
Outpost-schemes to groups of beeches.
And I’m sure, as here I stand,
That he shines through every land,
That he sings in every place
Where we’re thinking of his face.


Robert, there’s a war in France;
Everywhere men bang and blunder,
Sweat and swear and worship Chance,
Creep and blink through cannon thunder.
Rifles crack and bullets flick,
Sing and hum like hornet-swarms.
Bones are smashed and buried quick.
Yet, through stunning battle storms,
All the while I watch the spark
Lit to guide me; for I know
Dreams will triumph, though the dark
Scowls above me where I go.
You can hear me; you can mingle
Radiant folly with my jingle.
War’s a joke for me and you
While we know such dreams are true!

Sassoon skrev denna 1916, det är ett slags versbrev till his fellow poet Robert Graves. Året därefter hade Sassoon insett att kriget var meningslöst, och gjorde en deklaration som bublicerades i tidningarna och även lästes upp i parlamentet, och denna förtjänar också att återges i sin helhet:

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.
I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow-soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.
I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.
I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize."

(Hmmm, visst är det svårt att inte tänka på kriget i Irak?)
Det är knepigt att förklara för oss nutidsmänniskor hur farligt det var att uttrycka känslor av detta slag, man kunde bli skjuten om militärtribunalen dömde så, och Sassoons vänner, däribland Graves, lyckades få honom sänd till ett sinnessjukhus istället för att dras inför rätta. Tur var väl det, dels för hans egen överlevnad, dels för att han där träffade poeten Wilfred Owen, och blev dennes mentor. (Det ska påpekas att frater egentligen ringde för att höra om jag stulit hans The collected poems of Wilfred Owen, vilket jag i sanning INTE hade.)
And yes, they were totally gay.

Nåväl, Sassoon återvände till fronten då han satte ansvaret för sina mannar högre än sin avsky mot kriget (i mina ögon ungefär så modig man kan bli), och han överlevde även. Owen hade inte samma tur utan dödades i strid ungefär en vecka innan vapenstilleståndet.

Och vad har detta med latin att göra frågar ni? Inte mycket, iuvenes, förutom det faktum att alla de tre ovannämnda poeterna hade en god klassisk utbildning och säkerligen fuskade en del i latin (Graves, känd för åtskilliga översättningar från latinet och likaså författandet av 'Jag , Claudius', brukade fördriva tråkiga gudstjänster med att dikta på latin), samt att de leker en del med klassiska versmått och fraser, det mest kända exemplet på detta bör vara Owens Dulce et decorum est:

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 tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped 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

Det finns hur mycket som helst att citera och berätta om dessa grabbar, men jag har ju tyvärr även ett riktigt jobb, som jag nu bör ägna min uppmärksamhet åt.


Erika said...

Det är ju skönt att ibland påminnas om att även krig kan ta slut, och att inblandade parter också finner det värt att fira.

Synd bara att det alltid tycks börja om igen, på annan - eller samma - plats. Själv väntar jag fortfarande på att man ska börja lösa konflikter medels schackspelande. Kunde Riddare Anotnius Block spela mot döden så kan väl vänligen även de stridande styrkorna plocka upp sina pjäser och spela mot varann. Eller?

Erika said...

Och det skulle naturligtvis vara "Riddar Antonius", inte "Riddare Anotnius". (Även om det senare låter rätt skoj.) Jag behöver nog kaffe.