Thursday, July 30, 2009

poet laureate carol ann duffy's ww1 poem 'last post'

Carol Ann Duffy's Poem for the last of World War One

from the BBC Today programme website:

The last of the British survivors of World War I have died. Henry Allingham's funeral takes place today, with the funeral of Harry Patch to follow next week. To mark the occasion, we asked Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, to write a poem.



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 write it backwards,
then it would.


Harry Patch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Breathtakingly simple in conception but so very poignant. With the nation in reflective mode this particular week the Poet Laureate's words are particularly appropriate - and sit well with her predecessor's very moving piece
which embraced the eleven decades of Harry Patch's long life. RGW