Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Poem: Who's for the War?

by Jamie Bradshaw

A parody of Who's For the Game by Jessie Pope (see Pope's poem below the break) which was written during the First World War. Pope was criticised by soldier-poets such as Wilfred Owen for her jingoistic poems (published in the Daily Mail) that glamourised and trivialised war.   

Who's for the war, the giant bloodbath,
The screams of the dying young men?
Who's going to march down the nightmare path,
Knowing death beckons time and again?
Who will watch their friend be flung from their feet,
A bullet smashed straight through their skull?
Who'll watch their pal's face be covered by a sheet,
A victim of the everlasting cull?
Who'll look into the eyes of a petrified foe,
Ending them with a singe trigger pull?
Will you in a struggle strike the fatal blow,
Like a matador slaughters a bull?
So go, fight the war-
You may be alright,
But you may come back in a box
Is the war really worth your life's final fight,
Or are you all placing your heads on the blocks?

Pope's original poem:

Who’s for the game, the biggest that's played,
The red crashing game of a fight?
Who’ll grip and tackle the job unafraid?
And who thinks he’d rather sit tight?
Who’ll toe the line for the signal to ‘Go!’?
Who’ll give his country a hand?
Who wants a turn to himself in the show?
And who wants a seat in the stand?
Who knows it won’t be a picnic, not much,
Yet eagerly shoulders a gun?
Who would much rather come back with a crutch
Than lie low and be out of the fun?
Come along, lads— but you’ll come on all right—
For there’s only one course to pursue,
Your country is up to her neck in a fight,
And she’s looking and calling for you.

Wilfred Owen's poem, 'Dulce et Decorum Est', is believed to be addressed to Jessie Pope and other propagandist writers (referred to with bitter irony as "my friend" in the finals stanza).

 Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, 
And towards our distant rest 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 
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. 

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling 
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling 
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes 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, 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 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,— 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est 
Pro patria mori.

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