Last Post

Two people mentioned that I seem to be obsessed with poems about The Great War written by English poets.

I have been a bit obsessed. Perhaps it’s the approach of the 1centenary of the beginning of World War I that’s added fuel to the fires of interest in The War to End All Wars. It’s clearly not a new interest as I’ve written about it before: I Have Excellent News: The Poppy Is Not Extinct!

But two people have made mention of this most recent rant (?) regarding rememberance, so today I’m ending it all with Last Post.

Last Post is a contemporary poem by Carol Ann Duffy, commissioned and written in 2009 for the BBC to mark the passing of two of the last three surviving veterans of the First World War: Henry Allingham and Harry Patch.

Last Post
by Carol Ann Duffy

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud …
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home –
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce – No – Decorum – No – Pro patria mori.
You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too –
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert –
and light a cigarette.
There’s coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.

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