Sunday, November 9, 2008

Praying for peace

It is but a year since I remarked on the ceremony with which the British people remember the dead of the great conflict that engulfed Europe nearly a full century ago.

In visiting further such ceremonies today I continue to be deeply moved, and gratified, by this annual event. A priest today read the words of a young man, a member of the Sassoon family, who writes most movingly, from his heart, of the terrible aspect of warfare. Much as I admired the craft of Lord Alfred Tennyson, I fear he may have stoked some misapprehensions amongst the British people that there is a glamour in war and the waste of lives.

This week the world has a new hope; the Americans have elected a professed peace-maker to lead them. Mr Obama is a young man, lacking in experience, but he has shown his steel; and we must hope, and pray to the Almighty, that he holds fast to his course and seeks to be an instrument of true justice, justice that will build peace, not stoke hatred and warfare.

Let me quote the words, not of Homer, nor the great Horace, but of young Seigfried Sassoon:
At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!

1 comment:

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

My grandmother's brother was among the cannon fodder of Flander's fields back in 1918.

I think the 20th century betrayed all those who died in those years by our refusal to remember that, in the end, war is nothing more than a crime against humanity.