Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mostly for Katy, unless you want to be educated on a random subject right now

This probably won't be interesting to most people.  Don't feel bad.  Just don't read it!

My sophomore year at BYU, Katy and I randomly signed up for an Honors Literature class together.  I don't remember why we did--I guess it just sounded cool. It was called "Literature of the Great War." It might be one of the best classes I've ever taken!  There are classes, and there are good classes, and then there are amazing classes that totally open your eyes to a whole genre you've never thought about and then you're obsessed with it.  Katy and I are now WWI junkies--particularly when it comes to WWI poetry.  We could easily be called obsessed.  It was the best class.  Our professor, Brother Means, was a kindred spirit--he's a librarian at the HBLL, happens to be obsessed with WWI (seriously obsessed) and convinced someone to let him teach an honors class on it.  He loved Katy and me because we were so clearly interested and emotionally invested in these poets.  I cried basically once a class period--not to mention over my homework.  It was weird how quickly I loved poets that I had never heard of before.  For our final, Katy and I made a little video of our favorite poems, with Christy and Danny as our AMAZING stars.  It made Mom and Marilyn cry :)  I'm so nostalgic about that video.  Brother Means loved it, of course.

ANYWAYS--today is Armistice Day.  So all day I've been reading and thinking about my WWI poets and my favorite poems.

This is Rupert Brooke.  He was my first WWI love.  Yeats called him "the handsomest young man in England"--which Katy and I definitely agree with.  He died fairly early on in the war.  My favorite Rupert Brooke poem isn't actually war-related, and it's not his most famous--but here it is.

The Wayfarers

Is it the hour? We leave this resting-place
   Made fair by one another for a while.
Now, for a god-speed, one last mad embrace;
   The long road then, unlit by your faint smile.
Ah! the long road! and you so far away!
Oh, I'll remember! but...each crawling day
Will pale a little your scarlet lips, each mile
   Dull the dear pain of your remembered face.

...Do you think there's a far border town, somewhere,
   The desert's edge, last of the lands we know,
      Some gaunt eventual limit of our light,
   In which I'll find you waiting; and we'll go
Together, hand in hand again, out there,
      Into the waste we know not, into the night?

That's been one of my favorite poems for many years.  It can make me cry if I'm in the right mood.

Wilfred Owen is another of my favorites.  A lot of people say that he is the greatest war poet in English history.  He died days before the war ended.  His parents received news of his death ON ARMISTICE DAY.  As the Armistice bells were ringing in victory.  Can you even believe the tragedy?  I love his poems--can't really pick a favorite.  Here are two great ones:


Move him into the sun --
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this now.
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?

This next one is probably the most (or second most, after Dulce et Decorum Est) famous poem from the First World War.

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 goodbyes.
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.

Last and FOR SURE not least, Siegfried Sassoon.  Siegfried actually lived through the war!!  Yay!!  His poetry turned really bitter and cynical as the war went on.  Poor Siegfried.  I love him.  It is SO HARD to pick my favorite Siegfried poems.  There are seriously a million.

(this one is so sad--and a really good one to memorize several years ago when I was depressed all the time)

When I was young my heart and head were light,
And I was gay and feckless as a colt
Out in the fields, with morning in the may,
Wind on the grass, wings in the orchard bloom.
    O thrilling sweet, my joy, when life was free
    And all the paths led on from hawthorn-time
    Across the carolling meadows into June.

But now my heart is heavy-laden. I sit
Burning my dreams away beside the fire:
For death has made me wise and bitter and strong;
And I am rich in all that I have lost.
    O starshine on the fields of long-ago,
    Bring me the darkness and the nightingale;
    Dim wealds of vanished summer, peace of home,
    And silence; and the faces of my frriends.

I can't tell you how many times Katy and I have recited that to each other--mostly the last part.

I'm posting this one because it's about Armistice Day and it makes me happy:

Everyone Sang

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields, on--on--and out
      of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away...O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless, the singing will
      never be done.

There are so many other poets that I love.  Vera Brittain, her fiance Roland Leighton who died in the war, Robert Graves, and others.


Karen said...

Gorgeous post! Love the poems, loved the pictures and LOVED the poppies! And now I know where that quote came from that Katy had on Facebook.

Karen said...

PS Dad and I are glad with your new "obsession"!! Dad hopes it isn't a little immature for you. :)

Celia said...

I love "Anthem for the Doomed Youth." Beautiful. I forgot it was Armistice day! I love that video. I watched it my Freshman year. Christy looked beautiful. I remember that. It was so sad! I say post it!

Katy said...

Oh, Becca. I'm so glad we took that class.
Next year we should coordinate so I can do a post with all my favorite women's stuff and some of the more minor guys...remember Ewert Alan Mackintosh? Heavens.