On the 11th of the 11th say "Lest We Forget"
I wrote this poem a couple of years ago when I was a little taken aback by a news article about white poppy sellers who were encroaching on some territories normally used by red poppy sellers. I have no wish to enter into a debate regarding the use of the white poppy or pacifism especially since some will actually wear both the white and red poppies together. I simply wish to lend a little support to the use of the red poppy once a year on the various Remembrance Days around the world because the red poppy is not meant to glorify war, nor to desensitize it, but is simply a reminder of those who were involved in the struggle for liberty and of those who were left behind wondering.
If You Want Peace, Prepare For War
The first quotation above is translated as "If you want peace, prepare for war." and is generally accepted to mean that any thoughts a tyrant or transgressor might be harboring, of attacking or invading another territory, would be dissipated, or at least diminished, by having a more than adequate, fully trained, fighting force at the ready which would, hopefully, dispel those thoughts. And in this manner, war can then often be avoided. It is adapted from the second quotation above which is attributed to the Roman General Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus in his book, "Epitoma Rei Militaris", although there were earlier similar quotations. It means "Therefore he who desires peace, let him prepare war". There has been some debate as to its interpretation in that some believe it to mean that armies should be built up and trained during times of peace.
The Royal British Legion
I have granted the copyright of my poem to the Royal British Legion for their own use, if they wish it so. I once envisaged a short play, a one-acter, or perhaps a battlefield backdrop as the poem is narrated, but perhaps that stretches the imagination.
On the 11th of the 11th...
On the 11th of the 11th
We volunteered, we signed, we left home, we didn’t mind,
We marched, we sang, we were friends, we were a gang,
We clapped, we cheered, we grinned, some feared,
We dug trenches deep, we went to sleep,
We slept, we woke, we fought, we spoke,
We couldn’t bath, we fought our path,
We ate, we drank, we fought, we stank,
And all too soon, that dreaded boom, boom,
Sound of shells, so near our trenches tomb,
We hoped, in vain, we heard it again, and again,
We wished it would stop, “C’me on lads, over the top!”
The clack, clack, clacks, of machine guns repelling attacks,
The bullets, the shells, we were in several hells,
In the air, and on the ground, shells and bullets, all around,
We slept, we dreamed, we fought, we screamed,
We hurt, we yell, we fought, we fell,
We drank, we fed, we fought, we bled,
We laughed, we cried, we fought, we died.
We fought in mud, we fought in blood,
In no man’s land and trenches deep,
We breathed our last and went to sleep,
Don’t let our passing be in vain,
Freedom’s worth fighting for, again and again,
Whenever freedom is threatened, please heed the call,
Wherever freedom is threatened, rise up and stand tall,
If we could, we’d be there, on that you can bet,
So, on the 11th of the 11th, say, "Lest we forget",
Wear your poppy with pride, for those who have died,
And for those living wounded and fighting,
So the world can be free,
A red poppy is a thank you, from you, and from me.
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© 2019 Stive Smyth