Yesterday was Armistice Day.
At the eleventh hour, I snuck off into the stacks at work, so I could stand for two minutes in silence without being interrupted. My first year working at the Current Place of Employment (affectionately nicknamed the Library of Glum several years ago), I automatically stood at my desk at 11:00 am on the 11th of November, and bowed my head, and after a few seconds I realised I was the only person in the office doing this, and a few seconds after that, someone came up to ask me a question, and I just stood there, crimson with embarrassment, staring at my keyboard and staying upright and silent now out of sheer bloody-minded pride. My mind was certainly not full of thoughts of sorrow and longings for peace.
After that, I tended to slope off to find a private corner to stand about in. I am not Spartacus.
Anyway, as it’s Friday, and I haven’t written a poem this week (I’ve written half of one poem, and half of another poem, and they are quite clearly not part of the same poem and it is absolutely maddening), and it was Armistice Day and on Sunday it will be Remembrance Sunday, I thought I’d give you my favourite Wilfred Owen poem. It’s not as well known as Anthem for Doomed Youth, or Dulce et Decorum Est, but I find it far more moving than either.
Move him into the sun–
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it awoke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds–
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved,–still warm,–too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
–O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?
Wilfred Owen, 1918.