The Aftermath of the War to End All Wars
November 11, 2003 8:00 AM   Subscribe

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 may have brought an end to the Great War, but the ending was merely the beginning of the aftermath.
The aftermath years were a time of paradox, where the men who returned from the horrors of the trenches wanted to forget, and where those who had stayed behind, and had lost husbands and brothers, and sons and fathers were equally determined never to forget. It was a time where remembrance of the dead became a way of life, and where it was somehow assumed that all the best, and the finest young men of a generation had died. The other side of that assumption was that those who had survived were somehow less than those who had died. . . The exploration of that time, that world, is the theme of these pages.
posted by ewagoner (11 comments total)
posted by t r a c y at 8:01 AM on November 11, 2003

I will remember.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

posted by dazed_one at 8:03 AM on November 11, 2003

We Shall Keep the Faith
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Moina Michael's reply to John McCrae (1918)

posted by zarah at 8:10 AM on November 11, 2003

posted by sharpener at 8:43 AM on November 11, 2003

Interesting to note the genesis of the two poems noted above. John McCrae was a Canadian physician, who fought at the Western Front in 1914, transferred to the medical corps, and died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918. Ms. Michael was born in Georgia, in 1869. She "began her long teaching career shortly before her 16th birthday and over the years taught in county, town, state and church schools. On Nov. 9, 1918, the Saturday before the Armistice was signed, Miss Michael read Col. John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields. The poem made a lasting impression and she pledged not to forget the sacrifices of those who fought and wrote her own poem, We Shall Keep the Faith. She resolved always to wear red silk poppies-poppies of Flanders fields--and began a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of tribute and support for veterans."

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
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

Written by Wilfred Owens, a British officer killed in WW I. His mother received a telegram reporting his death on Nov 11, 1918, the day the war officially ended...the day we now observe as Veteran's/Remembrance Day.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 9:47 AM on November 11, 2003

War Is Kind

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind,
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them.
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom--
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbles in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

—Stephen Crane
posted by rushmc at 10:38 AM on November 11, 2003


I have been watching the war map slammed up for
advertising in front of the newspaper office.
Buttons--red and yellow buttons--blue and black buttons--
are shoved back and forth across the map.

A laughing young man, sunny with freckles,
Climbs a ladder, yells a joke to somebody in the crowd,
And then fixes a yellow button one inch west
And follows the yellow button with a black button one
inch west.

(Ten thousand men and boys twist on their bodies in
a red soak along a river edge,
Gasping of wounds, calling for water, some rattling
death in their throats.)
Who would guess what it cost to move two buttons one
inch on the war map here in front of the newspaper
office where the freckle-faced young man is laughing
to us?

--Carl Sandburg
posted by GaelFC at 10:51 AM on November 11, 2003

posted by davros42 at 11:24 AM on November 11, 2003

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. (randall jarrell)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:52 AM on November 11, 2003

In Memoriam
Private D. Sutherland killed in action in the German trench, May 16th, 1916, and the others who died.

So you were David's father,
And he was your only son,
And the new-cut peats are rotting
And the work is left undone,
Because of an old man weeping,
Just an old man in pain,
For David, his son David,
That will not come again.

Oh, the letters he wrote you,
And I can see them still,
Not a word of the fighting
But just the sheep on the hill
and how you should get the crops in
Ere the year get stormier,
And the Bosches have got his body,
And I was his officer.

You were only David's father,
But I had fifty sons
When we went up in the evening
Under the arch of the guns,
And we came back at twilight--
O God! I heard them call
To me for help and pity
That could not help at all.

Oh, never will I forget you,
My men that trusted me,
More my sons than your fathers',
For they could only see
The little helpless babies
And the young men in their pride.
They could not see you dying,
And hold you while you died.

Happy and young and gallant,
They saw their first-born go,
But not the strong limbs broken
And the beautiful men brought low,
The piteous writhing bodies,
They screamed, "Don't leave me, sir,"
For they were only your fathers
But I was your officer.

E.A. Mackintosh (1893-1917)
posted by cx at 3:39 PM on November 11, 2003

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