Lest we forget …

As we commemorate of the centenary of the battle of the Somme, I thought it would be appropriate to share a poem I wrote some years ago, inspired by the pointless sacrifice of human life in that awful battle.

 

Wings of Angels  

 

Upon the hillside, weary night

surrenders to advancing light.

A bird ascends and flies away

and sings for the beauty of the new-born day.

Down in the valley, trembling lines

of young men greet the bleak sunshine

with dread, and mix their fear with shame

as they pray to a god they have never named.

 

That morning, as the guns began their song

one man stood strangely calm and strong.

The captain thought of his wasted life,

of his failed career and his faithless wife.

He dreamed of a ribbon and a brazen cross,

well aware that his death would be no loss,

So he looked at the hilltop with desire

and saw salvation beyond the barbed wire.

 

He spoke to the pale ranks with pride

and assured them that God was on their side.

“My lads, I sense a holy force:

the wings of angels guard our course

through battle. You and I shall walk

up there to victory, so do not talk

of death, but what the world will say

of the great deeds that we did today.”

 

The boy of eighteen who had never kissed

didn’t want his name on a newspaper list

but he looked at the officer with surprise

to find no fear in those burning eyes.

So with hope in his heart he placed his trust

in this man, and a cause he knew was just

and he did not flinch at the word of command

as the company strode into no man’s land.

 

Words cannot frame the violent power

that rained on flesh for hour on hour.

At last, in the evening, the air is still

and the guns reign silently over the hill.

Cold on the red earth the heroes lie

and out of the burnt and tattered sky

fall feathers from a bird that no longer sings

or perhaps from the useless, broken wings

of angels.

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One thought on “Lest we forget …

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