Lament to War

A hundred years has passed us by and still we think of them:
The lives un-lived, the dreams destroyed, the legions of our men;
We did not know, we could not tell, what terror lay in store,
As year on year the butcher’s cry demanded more and more;

For full a hundred years before our power had waxed supreme,
And kept large conflagrations low and made us start to preen;
We thought we could control events and stop war in its tracks,
With webs of close alliances, diplomacy and pacts;

A maelstrom poured upon our men of iron, steel and fire,
And sent a wail of pitious grief through every town and shire;
“We must press on,” we told ourselves, “what now we had begun,”
Till British pluck and doggedness did triumph o’er the Hun;

Through mud and ice and poison gas, the order was ‘stand fast’:
This trial of strength twixt mortal foes, it surely could not last;
For four long years we stood our ground and bravely would not yield,
Till northern France ran red with blood though every poppy field;

Delusions of gargantuan depths had caused us to believe
This war would be no different from the rest we had conceived;
But science changes everything and chivalry was dead,
Midst fire and smoke and shrapnel shells and mustard gas and lead;

Oh God above, what did we do to vent our foolish spleen,
But sacrifice the bloom of youth on altars of the keen?
How little did we think it through and cry aloud, “enough!”
But yet preferred to stumble on with bloody blind man’s bluff.


About tomhmackenzie

Born Derek James Craig in 1939, I was stripped of my identity and renamed Thomas Humphreys in the Foundling Hospital's last intake of illegitimate children. After leaving the hospital at 15, I managed to find work in a Fleet Street press agency before being called up for National Service with the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars who were, at that time, engaged with the IRA in Northern Ireland. Following my spell in the Army, I sought out and located my biological parents at age 20. I then became Thomas Humphrey Mackenzie and formed the closest of relationships with my parents for the rest of their lives. All this formed the basis of my book, The Last Foundling (Pan Macmillan), which went on to become an international best seller.

Posted on August 5, 2014, in WWI. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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