Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness


This is a blog to cheer us all up, for God knows we need cheering after such dreadful news from
America. And what better way to cheer ourselves than to enjoy the richness and colour of Autumn, when the trees are a flame and the passion tree grows golden fruits and our hedges are abundant with berries, nature doesn’t forsake us, no matter how stupid we might be.

I walk about the close where I live and there are sumptuous trees wherever I look, and our once green lawns are carpeted with the scarlet of fallen leaves.

Our hedges blaze with Virginia creeper. The flame trees glow like fires and every garden is full of rich colour.

But while we’re enjoying all this natural wealth we shouldn’t forget that November is the time when we honour the dead of two world wars. Yesterday I promised a reader that I would give her a rather more difficult poem for this time of the year and here it is. Forgive me, if it does not take the usual, comforting view that most people prefer. Wilfred Owen writing of the first world war said ‘My subject is war and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.’

ARMISTICE DAY

Poppies that once bled pity in the Flanders fields

Are ritualised today to paper prettiness.

It’s the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

The exact poetic time when the war that was to end all wars

That should never, in all conscience, have begun

Dragged its ravaged, shell-shocked, blood-soaked length

To a stunned stop

In the dumb, dead darkness of a corpse-gorged year.

Now it is men and rivers that are gorged

In the greed and thoughtless muddle of our time.

And only winter stirs long-hidden truth,

When furrows fill with water

Whitely reflecting an impassive sky.

Bare branches darken in a north-east wind

And the old cold shrinks a sullen earth,

Smites the caked hides of shivering cattle

Soon to be killed to feed our appetites.

And touches our too sentimental skin.

Yet Folly still stands proud with its paper flower,

To parrot out the politicians’ lie.

‘They died that we might live’.

Not so. Not so. Oh, it was never so.

They died like cattle, herded, scared and young

Because, like cattle, they were sent to die.

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