Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lest we forget

Today is Anzac Day - our national day to commemorate those who served and fell in wars across the world.

And since I've been inspired by Amy and others posting poems for (US) National Poetry Month, I thought I'd share this one, by Australian poet Kenneth Slessor, written during WWII.

Beach Burial

Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.

Between the sob and clubbing of gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;

And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin -

"Unknown seaman" - the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men's lips,

Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as ememies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.

El Alamein


Lynne said...

I've never seen that poem before. Thanks for sharing it.

MadMad said...

What a great tribute! Have a wonderful weekend!

Anonymous said...

Lest we forget. The poem aroused a flood of memories of a country high school English class.

Donna Lee said...

I've never read that one either. My calendar on my desk has ANZAC day as a holiday so I was thinking of you all.

amy said...

I've not seen it either. Thank you for posting it. It gives me chills.

Jan said...

It gave me chills too when I first read it many years ago, as does his "Five Bells." (written for another occasion, not war)

I find Anzac Day a very poignant time, my grandfather fought in WW I, although not at Gallipoli. He was one who returned safely.

Sarah said...

Beautiful words, terrible times

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this Rose Red. My present is very much a part of my parents' post war past. The last thing i would ever want to do is forget.

Bells said...

Oh very nice choice. Kenneth Slessor brings back such memories of second year uni. I should read more of his work to rediscover him rather than remembering dull classes. I do think he's wonderful.

Em said...

Beautiful, haunting poem.