Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I'm writing about something that most people don't seem to like much, at least, didn't when we were younger. I remember in our 11th grade English class, Mrs. Morrison would stand up and announce that that day, we were analyzing poetry. Everyone would fidget just a little, and wish they were somewhere else.

However, one day, she pulled out this particular poem. I realize it's much more famous than I ever knew, but it was the poem that changed my mind.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares(2) we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest(3) 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(4) 
Of tired, outstripped(5) Five-Nines(6) that dropped behind.
Gas!(7) Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets(8) just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime(9) . . .
Dim, through the misty panes(10) 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,(11) 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(12) 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest(13) 
To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.(15)
Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 - March, 1918

It's hauntingly beautiful. 

Mrs. Morrison once described poetry as language under a microscope. That succinctness was the most important quality. You needed to say what you needed to in as few words as possible, 

The other day as I was driving home, I started realizing that we all collect little phrases. It's why so many old wives tales keep around. And these little phrases keep us grounded, and we wear them like armor. They're the advice we tell to our children and our friends. And for whatever reason, they ring true with us. 

Here is a few of my phrases:

"it was only ever thus".-Snow Patrol, The President
"we are all pieces of broken china, waiting for the chintz and lemon to soak through..." Toby Barlow, Sharp Teeth
"It is an aching kind of growing." -John Steinbeck, East of Eden
"How fickle my heart, and how woozy my eyes." -Mumford and Sons, Awake My Soul

Many, many more. They are not quotes, per say, but little words to dwell on, I think. A safety net for me.