One More Veterans/Armistice/Remembrance Day Post (the last, I promise): Concert Time

In my previous post on the last hours and minutes before 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, I made mention of one song I thought captured some of the solid core of sorrow that lies within any memory of combat.

That led some commenters to start mentioning some songs that similarly moved them.  That led to some poetry, and then to talk of books (and even a suggestion for a Balloon Juice book club, which sounds good to me).

So, below, I’ve assembled a catalogue of all the songs mentioned. (I hope — shout if I missed one and I’ll get the link up.)  I haven’t dared start cataloguing the poetry, nor books, and all I’ll say here is that one of the works I can say for sure has never left me is Robert Graves’ Good-bye to All That.

Now here’s the challenge:  use the comment thread to add mention or links to stuff — anything, music, poetry, prose, film– that speaks to your sense of the meaning of 11/11.

Over the jump, and over to you:

So, here’s the one I touted last time:  That would have been:

Dire Straits, \”Brothers in Arms\”

[BTW:  apologies for links rather than players.  AnneLaurie has been the behind-the-scenes samaritan fixing all these for me as the FYWP gnomes afflict me here — and I didn’t have the gumption to ask her to dive into this long list.  So click and enjoy….]

That evoked  (in thread order), Country Joe and the Fish, via stuckinred with an attaboy from Omnes Omnibus and SadOldVet:

Country Joe and Fish Vietnam Song

Which provoked MacsenMifune to point us to the Dropkick Murphy’s cover of a grand tune:

Dropkick Murphys \”The Green Fields of France\”

Now, here’s one from my 11/10 post on this theme, via LitlBritDifrnt.  It has the element of melancholy in it that is common to this type of song — but falls more on the Dulce et Decorum side of patriotic songs rather than on the antiwar half of the ledger:

I Vow To Thee My Country from a Royal Albert Hall Remembrance Day performance

Of course, there were several who made reference to this:

Last Post

Then, late in the thread, New Yorker piped up with this link:

Liam Clancy, The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

And thanks to Calouste at the tail end of the thread (as of this writing), we have this, whcih nowhat collection of war/antiwar songs should be without:

Iron Maiden, Paschendale

Almost done:  here are a couple more, omitted, by me and the commentariat.  First up, I heard this first on Springsteen’s early live album, but here’s Edwin Starr singing his song:

Edwin Starr, \”War\”

And then there is this one, part of the soundtrack of my childhood, as both brothers  sang this every summer in the San Francisco Boy’s Chorus.  It should be an Irishman singing it, but tell my you don’t want to hear Robeson:

Paul Robeson, The Minstrel Boy

Finally, from all those years growing up a DFH in Berkeley, CA, how could one omit:

Pete Seeger, Big Muddy

If that’s not enough — here’s a bonus video break:  via El Cid, this lovely short documentary on the last day of the war presented by Michael Palin:

Palin on 11/11/18

And from Comrade Mary, both the last scene and the making-of videos from the astonishing BBC comedy, Blackadder:

Blackadder final scene


Making of Blackadder\’s final scene

So:  Over to you. What do you hear in your mind’s ear on November 11?

(And, just a reminder:  some folks in the prior post’s thread have started tossing poetry back and forth and trading fiction and memoir/history suggestions. Please put together our own communal anthology here, if so moved.)

Image:  John Sheridan, illustrator for a Hart Schaffner and Marx advertisement depicting a World War I book drive for soldiers. 1919.

116 replies
  1. 1
    Maody says:

    I Saw His Round Mouth’s Crimson
    by Wilfred Owen

    I saw his round mouth’s crimson deepen as it fell,
    Like a Sun, in his last deep hour;
    Watched the magnificent recession of farewell,
    Clouding, half gleam, half glower,
    And a last splendour burn the heavens of his cheek.
    And in his eyes
    The cold stars lighting, very old and bleak,
    In different skies.

  2. 2
    MikeJ says:

    Guy Empey’s Over the Top is kind of jingoistic, a good look at life in the trenches written by a yank who joined the British army. Grandpa’s 1917 Knickerbocker press edition was in the attic, but you can read it online.

  3. 3

    I sometimes think of Metallica’s One – mainly because of the video.

  4. 4
    HRA says:

    Sorry I don’t have the link.

    Over There is the one song I remember the most.

  5. 5
    Cat Lady says:

    Move beyond any attachment to names.
    Every war and every conflict between
    human beings
    has happened because of some
    disagreement about names.
    It’s such an unnecessary foolishness,
    because just beyond the arguing
    there’s a long table of companionship,
    set and waiting for us to sit down.
    What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
    many jugs being poured into a huge basin.
    All religions, all this singing, one song.
    The differences are just illusion and vanity.
    Sunlight looks slightly different on this
    wall than it does on that wall.
    and a lot different on this other one,
    but it is still one light.
    We have borrowed these clothes,
    these time-and-space personalities,
    from a light,
    and when we praise,
    we pour them back in.


  6. 6
    Dave says:

    It’s not a song. But I think about the scene in Gallipoli when Frank arrives a second too late to stop the third wave from going over the top and he screams in anguish. That sums up the horror and heartbreak of war to me.

  7. 7
    mellowjohn says:

    ‘If any question why we died,
    Tell them, because our fathers lied.’
    from Rudyard Kipling’s “Epitaphs on War”
    written after the death of his son in France

  8. 8
    Davis X. Machina says:

    My history-teacher colleague plays Goodbyeee, the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth for his classes. (The girls say the end of it makes some of the boys cry…when they can catch them at it.)

    And Eric Bogle’s ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’…

  9. 9
    beltane says:

    My grandmother is 96 years old. She says one of her very earliest memories is of the parade for WWI soldiers on Fifth Avenue. That is a very special thing to me.

  10. 10
    pdf says:

    I run a metal blog for MSN Music, and I posted an unofficial (fan-made) video for Motörhead’s “1916” (title track of their 1991 album). Here are the lyrics:

    16 years old when I went to the war
    To fight for a land fit for heroes
    God on my side, and a gun in my hand
    Chasing my days down to zero
    And I marched and I fought and I bled and I died
    And I never did get any older
    But I knew at the time that a year in the line
    Is a long enough life for a soldier
    We all volunteered, and we wrote down our names
    And we added two years to our ages
    Eager for life and ahead of the game
    Ready for history’s pages
    And we brawled and we fought and we whored ’til we stood
    Ten thousand shoulder to shoulder
    A thirst for the Hun, we were food for the gun
    And that’s what you are when you’re soldiers

    I heard my friend cry, and he sank to his knees
    Coughing blood as he screamed for his mother
    And I fell by his side, and that’s how we died
    Clinging like kids to each other
    And I lay in the mud and the guts and the blood
    And I wept as his body grew colder
    And I called for my mother and she never came
    Though it wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t to blame
    The day not half over and ten thousand slain
    And now there’s nobody remembers our names
    And that’s how it is for a soldier

  11. 11
    jeffreyw says:

    Fortunate Son
    This was part of the soundtrack of the war for me. Viet Nam ’69-’70

  12. 12
    Sly says:

    The Faithful Hussar scene, from Paths of Glory. English lyrics of the song here.

  13. 13
    Maude says:

    I always thought the Vietnam was a lot like WWI in the way it was started.

    The Aussies still mourn Gallipoli.

  14. 14
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    We can’t give the bookclubophiles any quarter here. They already ruined one site I used to hang out on. This is a snark site, period. If you can’t handle that, go away please.

  15. 15
    Maude says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:
    I wasn’t serious.

  16. 16
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Maude: It’s all fun and games until every commenter is a librarian. Then it’s shhh.

  17. 17
    Jay S says:

    Here’s Andrew Olmsted’s final post

    published at his blog and at Obsidian Wings after his death in Iraq.

  18. 18
    stuckinred says:

    This is an email from my friend Andy’s platoon sgt in Vietnam. Andy was killed on Nov 22, 1968 in Operation Meade River, one of 150 Marines killed in that action.

    “I have been under treatment for decades for PTSD related to my time in Nam. I have a son Andrew. I was the person who identified Andy’s remains when he died. I was his wpns plt sgt. This Wed is the 42 nd anniversary of my PTSD. I also will be going through the first one on one treatment for PTSD. Andy, his life and his death, are a big part of my condition. I have never forgotten him.”

  19. 19

    @Jay S:
    Thanks for that, Jay S. never saw it before.

  20. 20
    robert green says:

    Price of Paradise, by the GREAT Minutemen:

    How I remember the history I have seen
    I was just a young boy,the horror I couldnt forsee
    All the pain that comes with war
    All the scars that never heal
    Here in paradise the price is cheap
    Young men die for greed
    Across the ocean in a land they call Vietnam
    Young men dying is all it would cost
    We were told and proudly believed
    They would fight to keep us free
    Here in America the price is cheap
    Young men die for what?
    My brother,the soldier was a hero who survived
    He’d tell the stories of men who died without dreams
    And they fight for men twice their age
    The smell of death made his life change
    The price of paradise is stained with blood
    All pawns and puppets of flesh and bone
    Will die for their leaders far from their homes
    These are men who died very young
    Afraid to see that their cause was unjust
    Why couldnt they live for life?
    Not die to survive

    and from a great song “Generals” by the Damned: “only the wounded remain, the generals have all left the game, with no will to fight, they fade with the light, the whole world has gone insane”

    plus Tool’s fine line about americans:

    “we like to watch things die–from a good safe distance”.

  21. 21
  22. 22
  23. 23
    Paul says:

    Eighth Air Force

    If, in an odd angle of the hutment,
    A puppy laps the water from a can
    Of flowers, and the drunk sergeant shaving
    Whistles O Paradiso!-shall I say that man
    Is not as men have said: a wolf to man?

    The other murderers troop in yawning;
    Three of them play Pitch, on sleeps, and one
    Lies counting missions, lies there sweating
    Till even his heart beats: One; One; One.
    O murderers!…Still, this is how it’s done:

    This is a war…But since these play, before they die,
    Like puppies with their puppy; since, a man,
    I did as these have done, but did not die-
    I will content the people as I can
    And give up these to them: Behold the man!

    I have suffered, in a dream, because of him,
    Many things; for this last saviour, man,
    I have lied as I lie now. But what is lying?
    Men wash their hands, in blood, as best they can:
    I find no fault in this just man.

    Randall Jarrell

  24. 24
  25. 25
    Bill Murray says:

    “The rank stench of those bodies haunts me still”

    The rank stench of those bodies haunts me still
    And I remember things I’d best forget.
    For now we’ve marched to a green, trenchless land
    Twelve miles from battering guns: along the grass
    Brown lines of tents are hives for snoring men;
    Wide, radiant water sways the floating sky
    Below dark, shivering trees. And living-clean
    Comes back with thoughts of home and hours of sleep.
    To-night I smell the battle; miles away
    Gun-thunder leaps and thuds along the ridge;
    The spouting shells dig pits in fields of death,
    And wounded men, are moaning in the woods.
    If any friend be there whom I have loved,
    God speed him safe to England with a gash.
    It’s sundown in the camp; some youngster laughs,
    Lifting his mug and drinking health to all
    Who come unscathed from that unpitying waste:
    (Terror and ruin lurk behind his gaze.)
    Another sits with tranquil, musing face,
    Puffing bis pipe and dreaming of the girl
    Whose last scrawled letter lies upon his knee.
    The sunlight falls, low-ruddy from the west,
    Upon their heads. Last week they might have died
    And now they stretch their limbs in tired content.
    One says ‘The bloody Bosche has got the knock;
    ‘And soon they’ll crumple up and chuck their games.
    ‘We’ve got the beggars on the run at last!’
    Then I remembered someone that I’d seen
    Dead in a squalid, miserable ditch,
    Heedless of toiling feet that trod him down.
    He was a Prussian with a decent face,
    Young, fresh, and pleasant, so 1 dare to say.
    No doubt he loathed the war and longed for peace,
    And cursed our souls because we’d killed his friends.
    One night he yawned along a haIf-dug trench
    Midnight; and then the British guns began
    With heavy shrapnel bursting low, and ‘hows’
    Whistling to cut the wire with blinding din.
    He didn’t move; the digging still went on;
    Men stooped and shovelled; someone gave a grunt,
    And moaned and died with agony in the sludge.
    Then the long hiss of shells lifted and stopped.
    He stared into the gloom; a rocket curved,
    And rifles rattled angrily on the left
    Down by the wood, and there was noise of bombs.
    Then the damned English loomed in scrambling haste
    Out of the dark and struggled through the wire,
    And there were shouts and curses; someone screamed
    And men began to blunder down the trench
    Without their rifles. It was time to go:
    He grabbed his coat; stood up, gulping some bread;
    Then clutched his head and fell.
    I found him there
    In the gray morning when the place was held.
    His face was in the mud; one arm flung out
    As when he crumpled up; his sturdy legs
    Were bent beneath bis trunk; heels to the skye.

    Siegfried Sassoon

  26. 26

    love that song. love john prine.

  27. 27
    stuckinred says:

    The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
    by Randall Jarrell

    From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
    And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
    Six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life,
    I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
    When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

  28. 28
    stuckinred says:

    It Don’t Mean Nothin Drive On Johnny Cash

  29. 29
    Calouste says:


    Iron Maiden’s “Paschendale” has pretty much the same theme, with the fun bits left out:

    In a foreign field he lay
    lonely soldier unknown grave
    on his dying words he prays
    tell the world of Paschendale

    Relive all that he’s been through
    last communion of his soul
    rust your bullets with his tears
    let me tell you ’bout his years

    Laying low in a blood filled trench
    killing time ’til my very own death
    on my face I can feel the falling rain
    never see my friends again
    in the smoke in the mud and lead
    the smell of fear and the feeling of dread
    soon be time to go over the wall
    rapid fire and the end of us all

    Whistles, shouts and more gun-fire
    lifeless bodies hang on barbed wire
    battlefield nothing but a bloody tomb
    be reunited with my dead friends soon
    many soldiers eighteen years
    drowned in mud, no more tears
    surely a war no one can win
    killing time about to begin

    Home, far away. From the war, a chance to live again
    Home, far away. But the war, no chance to live again

    The bodies of ours and our foes
    the sea of death it overflows
    in no-man’s land God only knows
    into jaws of death we go…

    Crucified as if on a cross
    allied troops, they mourn their loss
    German war propaganda machine
    such before has never been seen
    swear I heard the angels cry
    pray to God no more may die
    so that people know the truth
    tell the tale of Paschendale

    Cruelty has a human heart
    every man does play his part
    terror of the men we kill
    the human heart is hungry still

    I stand my ground for the very last time
    gun is ready as I stand in line
    nervous wait for the whistle to blow
    rush of blood and over we go…

    Blood is falling like the rain
    its crimson cloak unveils again
    the sound of guns can’t hide their shame
    and so we die in Paschendale

    Dodging shrapnel and barbed wire
    running straight at canon fire
    running blind as I hold my breath
    say a prayer symphony of death
    as we charge the enemy lines
    a burst of fire and we go down
    I choke I cry but no one hears
    feel the blood go down my throat

    Home, far away. From the war, a chance to live again
    Home, far away. But the war, no chance to live again
    Home, far away. From the war, a chance to live again
    Home, far away. But the war, no chance to live again

    See my spirit on the wind
    across the lines beyond the hill
    friend and foe will meet again
    those who died at Paschendale

    F&*k, it’s depressing.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    stuckinred says:

    words and music by Arlo Guthrie

    Halfway around the world tonight
    In a strange and foreign land
    A soldier packs his memories
    As he leaves Afghanistan
    And back home they don’t know too much
    There’s just no way to tell
    I guess you had to be there
    For to know that war was hell

    And there won’t be any victory parades
    For those that’s coming back
    They’ll fly them in at midnight
    And unload the body sacks
    And the living will be walking down
    A long and lonely road
    Because nobody seems to care these days
    When a soldier makes it home

    They’ll say it wasn’t easy
    Just another job well done
    As the government in Kabul falls
    To the sounds of rebel guns
    And the faces of the comrades
    Being blown out of the sky
    Leaves you bitter with the feeling
    That they didn’t have to die


    Halfway around the world tonight
    In a strange and foreign land
    A soldier unpacks memories
    That he saved from Vietnam
    Back home they didn’t know too much
    There was just no way to tell
    I guess you had to be there
    For to know that war was hell

    And there wasn’t any big parades
    For those that made it back
    They flew them in at midnight
    And unloaded all the sacks
    And the living were left walking down
    A long and lonely road
    Because nobody seemed to care back then
    When a soldier made it home

    The night is coming quickly
    And the stars are on their way
    As I stare into the evening
    Looking for the words to say
    That I saw the lonely soldier
    Just a boy that’s far from home
    And I saw that I was just like him
    While upon this earth I roam

    And there may not be any big parades
    If I ever make it back
    As I come home under cover
    Through a world that can’t keep track
    Of the heroes who have fallen
    Let alone the ones who won’t
    Which is why nobody seems to care
    When a soldier makes it home

  32. 32
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises. War and its aftermath.

  33. 33
    stuckinred says:

    Walkin on a Thin Line

    Huey Lewis and the News

    Sometimes in my bed at night
    I curse the dark and a pray for light
    And sometimes, the light’s no consolation
    Blinded by a memory
    Afraid of what it might do to me
    And the tears and the sweat only mock my desperation

    Don’t you know me I’m the boy next door
    The one you find so easy to ignore
    Is that what I was fighting for?
    Walking on a thin line
    Straight off the front line
    Labeled as freaks loose on the streets of the city
    Walking on a thin line
    Straight off the front line
    Take a look at my face, see what it’s doing to me

    Taught me how to shoot to kill
    A specialist with a deadly skill
    A skill I needed to have to be a survivor
    It’s over now or so they say
    Well, sometimes, it don’t turn out that way
    Cause your never the same when you’ve been under fire

    Don’t you know me I’m the boy next door
    The one you find so easy to ignore
    Is that what I was fighting for?
    Walking on a thin line
    Straight off the front line
    Labeled as freaks loose on the streets of the city
    Walking on a thin line
    Straight off the front line
    Take a look at my face, see what it’s doing to me

  34. 34
    ChrisS says:

    Motorhead is some good shit. Fuck those are some powerful lyrics.

    I checked around on today. I’m a vet, my father didn’t serve in Vietnam because he was partially crippled by polio. My paternal grandfather was too young for WWII and died before Korea. My maternal grandfather was in the Coast Guard during WWII and his buoy tender was actually sunk by a german U-boat in the gulf of mexico (, my 3rd great paternal grandfather served with the 89th Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, including Antietam., and as far back as I’ve been able to find, my 5th greater paternal grandfather was a Lt during the Revolutionary War ( Our family is pretty well-represented.

    This is actually a non-cloying (alt)country song about November 11th. I guess it charted in 2004. From a Canadian band, so maybe that has something to do with it:

  35. 35
    Linkmeister says:

    If you don’t know about them, Teresa Nielsen Hayden has been writing Great War posts on this date each year. Here’s a link to the 2008 one with links to her previous posts. They are link-rich in both the posts and the comments.

  36. 36
    General Stuck says:

    So: Over to you. What do you hear in your mind’s ear on November 11?

    Even being a vet, I don’t think much about veterans day. All my angst and grief comes on Memorial Day. I make it a point to visit the local veterans cemetery which is at a little place called Fort Bayard, a few miles from here.

    Since Vietnam is my generations war, I also make it a point to search out some obscure battle on the internet from Vietnam, and read the details and accounts of that battle, and each soldier that may have died that day, so at least someone somewhere remembers their fate and sacrifice on that day. Sometimes I write down those names and carry them around in my pocket for a week or two.

    Tim Buckley — Once I was

  37. 37
    Cat Lady says:


    I memorized that when I was fourteen, around the time when I first read Johnny Got His Gun.

    Why are humans determined to make the same mistakes over and over and over and over……..

  38. 38
    Bill Murray says:

    I’ll decline when the sign says Over There

  39. 39
    General Stuck says:

    would someone please release my comment from mod hell


  40. 40
    stuckinred says:

    @Cat Lady: Yup, hence, “It Don’t Mean Nothing, Drive On”.

  41. 41
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    This Steve Earle tune is from later wars, but I think is still appropriate.

  42. 42
    stuckinred says:

    We passed the hash pipe
    And played our doors tapes
    And it was dark
    So dark at night
    And we held on to each other
    Like brother to brother

  43. 43
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @stuckinred: In my day, it was FIDO (Fuck it, drive on).

  44. 44
  45. 45
    James E. Powell says:

    Dulce et Decorum Est
    by Wilfred Owen

    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 tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped 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

  46. 46
    Pete says:

    War Requiem by Benjamin Britten

    Wikipedia entry

  47. 47
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Attack by Siegfried 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!

  48. 48
    FredW says:

    Eric Bogle (who also wrote “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”), “No Man’s Land”

    Well, how do you do, Private William McBride,
    Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
    And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
    I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.
    And I see by your gravestone you were only 19
    When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
    Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
    Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

    cho: Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
    Did the rifles fir o’er you as they lowered you down?
    Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
    Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

    And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
    In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
    And, though you died back in 1916,
    To that loyal heart are you always 19?
    Or are you a stranger without even a name,
    Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
    In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
    And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

    The sun’s shining down on these green fields of France;
    The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
    The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
    No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
    But here in this graveyard that’s still No Man’s Land
    The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
    To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.
    And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

    And I can’t help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
    Do all those who lie here know why they died?
    Did you really believe them when they told you ‘The Cause?’
    Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
    Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
    The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
    For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
    And again, and again, and again, and again.

  49. 49
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @JSF #14: Aren’t there any snarky fucky books you could recommend?

  50. 50
    Jeannette says:

    Neville Lytton wrote The Press and the General Staff propagandizing the last days of WW I.

    Sassoon and Blunden found hundreds of errors in Graves’ account of the war. They claimed he wrote what would sell, not an honest accounting of soldiers’ experience in the trenches.

    Charles Sorley died at the Battle of Loos in Oct 1915, aged 20. This poem was found in his belongings:

    When you see millions of the mouthless dead
    Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
    Say not soft things as other men have said,
    That you’ll remember. For you need not so.
    Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
    It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
    Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
    Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
    Say only this, “They are dead.” Then add thereto,
    “Yet many a better one has died before.”
    Then, scanning all the o’ercrowded mass, should you
    Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
    It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
    Great death has made all his for evermore.

  51. 51
    JoyfulA says:

    It was supposed to have been the war to end all wars. If it had been the last war of all times, it might have been worth it.

    And the end of that war turned into the beginning of that influenza that killed so many more.

  52. 52
    Linkmeister says:

    From a post at my place Nov. 11, 2003. I think I was angry at the 101st Keyboard Kommandos at the time:

    Grantland Rice is better known for his sportswriting than for his poetry, but he worked for the nascent Stars and Stripes newspaper in Europe during WW I. He wrote this in the ’20s, I think. I found it at Poetry of the First World War.

    Two Sides of War

    All wars are planned by older men
    In council rooms apart,
    Who call for greater armament
    And map the battle chart.

    But out along the shattered field
    Where golden dreams turn gray,
    How very young the faces were
    Where all the dead men lay.

    Portly and solemn in their pride,
    The elders cast their vote
    For this or that, or something else,
    That sounds the martial note.

    But where their sightless eyes stare out
    Beyond life’s vanished toys,
    I’ve noticed nearly all the dead
    Were hardly more than boys.

  53. 53
    Mnemosyne says:

    Totally random suggestion: you wouldn’t know it, but the film Gods and Monsters focuses quite a bit on James Whale’s experiences in WWI and how it influenced his later work in a very interesting way.

  54. 54
    PurpleGirl says:

    Not about WWI but it makes me cry every time…
    From the musical 1776:

    <a href=";

  55. 55
    PurpleGirl says:

    Okay, let’s try this again.

    Not about WWI but it makes me cry every time I hear it; Momma Look Sharp from 1776.

  56. 56
    matoko_chan says:

    Green Day– 21 Guns– VMA song of the year last year.
    Linkin Park– the Catalyst — VMA song of the year this year.
    All the songs are about war anymore…..i guess like in the last unwinnable immoral meaningless war we got stuck in….
    turn on the radio and you hear anti-war songs.
    30 Seconds to Mars– This is War
    Offspring– Hammerhead.

    we have been fighting for nearly 10 years because Bush was a fucking WEC retard….
    its all millenials know.
    i dont remember anything else.

  57. 57
    PurpleGirl says:

    Sorry folks, I can’t seem to edit my comments tonight.

    The YouTube is at

  58. 58
    Tehanu says:

    A spy novel by Anthony Price titled Other Paths to Glory — the main plot is a 1960s-70s spy vs. spy thing, but it’s all interwoven with the Battle of the Somme and what it was like for the participants and survivors. Terrific book.

  59. 59
    jl says:

    When I was a kid, Goodbye to All that by Robert Graves left a deep impression, at least the parts about trench warfare in WWI, and the vivid descriptions of the psychic scares that battle left on him, flashbacks nightmares and hallucinations. I remember reading with horror Graves’ description of flashback when he thought he was back in battle when he saw a utility worker climb out of construction trench in London after the war.

    Cranes’ poems are harsh, maybe too cynical for a 11/11/11 day. But I think his war poems are ‘meta’, you are supposed to get behind some of that attitudes of the narrator. But, can’t resist posting them.

    There was a crimson clash of war

    There was crimson clash of war
    Lands turned black and bare;
    Women wept;
    Babes ran, wondering.
    There came one who understood not these things.
    He said, “Why is this?”
    Whereupon a million strove to answer him.
    There was such intricate clamour of tongues,
    That still the reason was not.

    Do Not Weep, Maiden, For War Is Kind

    Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
    Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
    And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
    Do not weep.
    War is kind.

    Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
    Little souls who thirst for fight,
    These men were born to drill and die.
    The unexplained glory flies above them,
    Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom —
    A field where a thousand corpses lie.

    Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
    Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
    Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
    Do not weep.
    War is kind.

    Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
    Eagle with crest of red and gold,
    These men were born to drill and die.
    Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
    Make plain to them the excellence of killing
    And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

    Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
    On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
    Do not weep.
    War is kind.

    Stephen Crane

  60. 60
    Bill Murray says:

    By Siegfried Sassoon

    I knew a simple soldier boy
    Who grinned at life in empty joy,
    Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
    And whistled early with the lark.

    In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
    With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
    He put a bullet through his brain.
    No one spoke of him again.

    You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
    Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
    Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
    The hell where youth and laughter go.

  61. 61
    Dee Loralei says:

    There’s a song called A Soldier’s Things that I always thought was about WWI. It’s by Tom Waits, but I came to it via Paul Young. It always gave me pause. But it’s about an old soldier dying of old age or going into an old folks home and getting rid of his medals. Hell I haven’t listened to it for years and years.

  62. 62
    suzanne says:

    Suicide in the Trenches, Siegfried Sassoon

    I knew a simple soldier boy…..
    Who grinned at life in empty joy,
    Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
    And whistled early with the lark.

    In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
    With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
    He put a bullet through his brain.
    And no one spoke of him again.

    You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
    Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
    Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
    The hell where youth and laughter go.

  63. 63
    suzanne says:

    @Bill Murray: You love that one too. :)

  64. 64
    PurpleGirl says:

    From left field, as it were: The physical and mental injuries and their effects on the soldiers was a subtext in D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and John Thomas and Lady Jane (the third and second versions of the novel, respectively). I think they are more concretely addressed in John Thomas and Lady Jane. Lord Chatterly returns from WWI a mere shadow of himself and unable to engage Constance Chatterly in any meaningful way.

  65. 65
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    OT: If I see one more “Freedom isn’t Free” type post from conservatives on Facebook, I may punch someone in the neck.

  66. 66
    toro toro says:

    All Together Now by Liverpool band The Farm

    Remember boy that your forefather’s died
    Lost in millions for a country’s pride
    Never mention the trenches of Belgium
    When they stopped fighting and they were one

    A spirit stronger than war was at work that night
    December 1914 cold, clear and bright
    Countries’ borders were right out of sight
    They joined together and decided not to fight

    All together now, all together now
    All together now in no man’s land (together)
    All together now (all together), all together now (all together)
    All together now (together, together)
    In no man’s land (together, together)

    The same old story again
    All those tears shed in vain
    Nothing learnt and nothing gained
    Only hope remains

    The boys had their say, they said no (all together now)
    Stop the slaughter, let’s go home
    Let’s go, let’s go (all together now)
    Let’s go (all together now), let’s go home
    All together now (together, together)
    In no man’s land (together, together)
    All together now (all together now), all together now (all together)
    All together now (together, together)
    In no man’s land (together, together)

  67. 67
    suzanne says:

    Glad to see all the Sassoon love. He’s been one of my favorites since high school. I feel deep-seeded kinship with those angsty, stoic Brits.

  68. 68
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @suzanne: He, Sassoon, always seemed the most modern of the war poets. I wonder if it is because he lived.

  69. 69
    stickler says:

    I found this video earlier this year, and was pretty impressed:

    Pipe band playing “Ein guter Kamerad” at the German cemetery at Langemarck, Belgium, in 2009. Aside from the jarring picture of bagpipes playing the German military mourning song, there’s also the poignant meaning of the place. Langemarck was a battle in October, 1914, where the German command threw units of volunteers against British machine guns. Many of the Germans were university students, who’d been exempted from military service, and who signed up in the first days of the war. They got some rudimentary training, and were flung against the British in a confused series of battles. The result was later referred to as der Kindermord bei Langemarck, the “slaughter of the Innocents at Langemarck.”

    Right wing fanatics later built a whole myth up about these kids singing “Deutschland über alles” as they charged the British machine guns, and the Nazis would go nuts with the story. But the reality was probably sad enough: tens of thousands of German boys slaughtered to no good purpose.

  70. 70
    jl says:

    From The Wound Dresser, Walt Whitman

    Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
    Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
    Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
    Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the ground,
    Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d hospital,
    To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
    To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,
    An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
    Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill’d again.

    I onward go, I stop,
    With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
    I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,

    One turns to me his appealing eyes- poor boy! I never knew you,
    Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you.

    On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
    The crush’d head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away,)
    The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through examine,
    Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life struggles hard,
    (Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death! In mercy come quickly.)

    From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
    I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood,
    Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv’d neck and side falling head,
    His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,
    And has not yet look’d on it.

    I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
    But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
    And the yellow-blue countenance see.

    I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
    Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,
    While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.

    I am faithful, I do not give out,
    The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
    These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)

  71. 71
    Martha says:

    It may sound odd to recommend fiction, a series of police procedurals at that, but Charles Todd captures post WWI Britain through the eyes of a returning officer. Ian Rutledge is a Scotland Yard detective with a serious case of shell shock…aka PTSD. It’s a really excellent series, the character, plotting, and how the authors capture the war and it’s impacts on the country. Start at the beginning…A Test of Wills.

  72. 72
    stickler says:

    Whoops. I should have written November, 1914. Anyhow, a quick entry at GHI: Grotemeyer painting and explanation.

    Too bad we’re so Anglo-centric so far here. WWI was the ur-catastrophe for central Europe, too. I think Netflix has Joyeux Noel on instant stream. Not a great film, but a pretty good one, about the Christmas truce in 1914.

  73. 73
    Cat Lady says:


    The idea of uniformed armies marching headlong into the enemy’s stronghold is so quaint, isn’t it? Now it’s American drones, black ops contractors and random ideologues wearing street clothes armed with box cutters or suicide belts, seeding streets with IEDs triggered with cell phones and trying to outwit air freight and the hapless TSA. Where’s the poetry about that going to come from?

  74. 74
    New Yorker says:


    Here’s a version with German lyrics added in. I think it makes it more poignant because, regardless of whether one was British, German, French, Russian, Austrian, Turkish, Italian, Serbian, American, etc. etc., it was all just a pointless slaughter of innocent young men.

  75. 75
    Mnemosyne says:


    I’ve been reading Dorothy Sayers (not sure how I missed her in my mystery-obsessed days) and it’s interesting how the war turns up, like when Peter Wimsey has occasional PTSD episodes.

    IIRC, she stopped writing mysteries when WWII broke out because she found it distasteful to write about murder when wholesale slaughter was going on.

  76. 76
    Onkel Bob says:

    Rupert Brooke’s Dust

    When the white flame in us is gone,
    And we that lost the world’s delight
    Stiffen in darkness, left alone
    To crumble in our separate night;

    Although I’m a vet, I was never in the military, I was in the USAF :^)

    (In the Army the officers send the enlisted off to fight and die. In the Navy the officers and enlisted fight and die together. In the Air Force, the enlisted salute the officers as they go off to fight and die, and say “Fly, Fight, Win” sir; and then we went back to the NCO club and drank.)

  77. 77
    Tom Levenson says:

    My thanks to all participating. It’s an astonishing richness of material that’s coming up here.

    I’ve nothing much to add — just taking notes, mostly — but following Stickler’s reminder that the non-English speaking world had something to do with all this, I’d add the obvious: All Quiet on the Western Front, both book and film, as essential elements of memory. Also, Renoir’s film, Grand Illusion is amazing both as story and as a work of filmed art. Paths of Glory with the young Kirk Douglas ditto. And, given that we’ve left out the artists, I’ve been terribly moved by George Grosz, among many others. “Metropolis” is an amazing war/antiwar painting, and his drawing “The Faith Healers” is as brutal a condemnation of the bitter indifference of those who send young men to die as I’ve ever seen.

  78. 78
    cleek says:

    Generals gathered in their masses
    Just like witches at black masses
    Evil minds that plot destruction
    Sorcerers of death’s construction
    In the fields the bodies burning
    As the war machine keeps turning
    Death and hatred to mankind
    Poisoning their brainwashed minds
    Oh lord yeah!

    Politicians hide themselves away
    They only started the war
    Why should they go out to fight?
    They leave that role to the poor

    Time will tell on their power minds
    Making war just for fun
    Treating people just like pawns in chess
    Wait ’til their judgment day comes

    Now in darkness world stops turning
    Ashes where the bodies burning
    No more war pigs have the power
    Hand of God has struck the hour
    Day of judgment, God is calling
    On their knees the war pig’s crawling
    Begging mercy for their sins
    Satan laughing spreads his wings
    Oh lord yeah!

    or, if you don’t like that, there’s always the first 1/3 of The Wall

  79. 79
    Tom Levenson says:

    Sorry, forgot the link to the Faith Healers drawing.

    The doctor’s proclamation “KV” is a wrenching pun. It stands for Kriegsverwenungsfahig –literally “capable for war use.” The gut punch comes from the fact that the initials also evoke a bit of wartime military jargon: “Kadavergehorsam”–the obedience of a corpse

  80. 80
    Cat Lady says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Thank you. You’re a great addition to this community. You’re wicked smaht.

  81. 81
    Martha says:

    @Mnemosyne: I haven’t read Sayers in forever. I should reread some. I love historical fiction and have had great luck with mysteries/procedurals lately. Most are better written than today’s crop of oh so very serious novels.

  82. 82
    jl says:

    For something completely different, Chaucer’s description of the Temple of Mars, god of war, from the Knight’s Tale.

    Chaucer wrote back in the 14th century when war was all glory pomp and chivalry. Chaucer did see war himself firsthand, as a diplomat following the troops, so of course he sees the martial virtues of the thing, nothing sorrowful, ghastly or tragic (snark alert).

    The last lines describing the shrine to Conquest, and the god Mars himself, come to my mind often when the subject of war and battle come up.

    Chaucer’s snark filled description of Mar’s palace follows:

    There saw I first the dark imagining
    Of felony, and all the compassing;
    And cruel anger, red as burning coal;
    Pickpurses, and the dread that eats the soul;
    The smiling villain, hiding knife in cloak;
    The farm barns burning, and the thick black smoke;
    The treachery of murder done in bed;
    The open battle, with the wounds that bled;

    Contest, with bloody knife and sharp menace;
    And loud with creaking was that dismal place.
    The slayer of himself, too, saw I there,
    His very heart’s blood matted in his hair;
    The nail that’s driven in the skull by night;
    The cold plague-corpse, with gaping mouth upright
    In middle of the temple sat Mischance,
    With gloomy, grimly woeful countenance.

    And saw I Madness laughing in his rage;
    Armed risings, and outcries, and fierce outrage;
    The carrion in the bush, with throat wide carved;
    A thousand slain, nor one by plague, nor starved.
    The tyrant, with the spoils of violent theft;
    The town destroyed, in ruins, nothing left.
    And saw I burnt the ships that dance by phares,
    The hunter strangled by the fierce wild bears;
    The sow chewing the child right in the cradle;
    The cook well scalded, spite of his long ladle.
    Nothing was lacking of Mars’ evil part:
    The carter over-driven by his cart,
    Under a wheel he lay low in the dust.
    There were likewise in Mars’ house, as needs must,
    The surgeon, and the butcher, and the smith
    Who forges sharp swords and great ills therewith.

    And over all, depicted in a tower,
    Sat Conquest, high in honour and in power
    Y et with a sharp sword hanging o’er his head
    But by the tenuous twisting of a thread.

    The menacing of Mars, in likeness sure;
    Things were so shown, in all that portraiture,
    As are fore-shown among the stars above,
    Who shall be slain in war or dead for love.
    Suffice one instance from old plenitude,
    I could not tell them all, even if I would.

    Mars’ image stood upon a chariot,
    Armed, and so grim that he seemed mad;
    And o’er his head two constellations shone
    Of stars that have been named in writings known.
    One being Puella, and one Rubeus.
    This god of armies was companioned thus:
    A wolf there was before him, at his feet,
    Red-eyed, and of a dead man he did eat.
    A cunning pencil there had limned this story
    In reverence of Mars and of his glory.

  83. 83
    Martha says:

    @Tom Levenson: I’ve really enjoyed all of your posts and comments today. Melancholy, but mindful.

  84. 84
    JWL says:

    Bring Back The Draft:

    “Yeah, come on all of you, big strong men,
    Uncle Sam needs your help again.
    He’s got himself in a terrible jam
    Way down yonder in Vietnam
    So put down your books and pick up a gun,
    We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.
    And it’s one, two, three,
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam;
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.
    Well, come on generals, let’s move fast;
    Your big chance has come at last.
    Gotta go out and get those reds —
    The only good commie is the one who’s dead
    And you know that peace can only be won
    When we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come.
    And it’s one, two, three,
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam;
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.
    Well, come on Wall Street, don’t move slow,
    Why man, this is war au-go-go.
    There’s plenty good money to be made
    By supplying the Army with the tools of the trade,
    Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
    They drop it on the Viet Cong.
    And it’s one, two, three,
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam.
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.
    Well, come on mothers throughout the land,
    Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
    Come on fathers, don’t hesitate,
    Send ’em off before it’s too late.
    Be the first one on your block
    To have your boy come home in a box.
    And it’s one, two, three
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam.
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die”.

  85. 85
    jl says:


    “Sassoon and Blunden found hundreds of errors in Graves’ account of the war. They claimed he wrote what would sell, not an honest accounting of soldiers’ experience in the trenches.”

    I think that is true. Even though Sassoon and Graves were friends, and influence each other’s writing, I remember reading that Sassoon hated the book.

  86. 86
    suzanne says:

    @Tom Levenson: If we’re talking visual arts, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, has brought me to tears more than the work of Kathe Kollwitz.

  87. 87
    Tom Levenson says:

    @suzanne: You think there’s some power here?

    You would be right, IMHO.

  88. 88
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Martha: @Cat Lady:
    Shucks. (blushes).

    More seriously: I appreciate the kind words. I’ve been made very welcome here, and that’s very nice (if a little perplexing, giving the snarling, the vitriol, and all that).

  89. 89
    suzanne says:

    @Tom Levenson: Some of the war-related work of Richard Pousette-Dart is also awesome.

  90. 90
  91. 91
  92. 92
    Ash Can says:

    There’s something both depressing and uplifting over the fact that there are a number of piano concertos written for the left hand.

    And @suzanne: ditto on Kathe Kollwitz. My mother (an artist herself) has always been a big fan of hers, and introduced me to her work years ago. Sad story, great art.

  93. 93

    […] here: One More Veterans/Armistice/Remembrance Day Post (the – Balloon Juice Related Posts:Patriotic Music and Songs for Veterans Day and Memorial Day How about downloading […]

  94. 94
    Gus says:

    The Man He Killed

    Had he and I but met
    By some old ancient inn,
    We should have set us down to wet
    Right many a nipperkin!

    But ranged as infantry,
    And staring face to face,
    I shot at him as he at me,
    And killed him in his place.

    I shot him dead because—
    Because he was my foe,
    Just so: my foe of course he was;
    That’s clear enough; although

    He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
    Off-hand like—just as I—
    Was out of work—had sold his traps—
    No other reason why.

    Yes; quaint and curious war is!
    You shoot a fellow down
    You’d treat, if met where any bar is,
    Or help to half a crown.

    Also “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.”

  95. 95
    James E. Powell says:

    @Bill Murray:

    You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
    Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
    Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
    The hell where youth and laughter go.

    A message to Tom Friedman and his kind, to warbloggers, and to all the pro-war assholes who get their rocks off from having our kids kills their kids.

    But even if they ever heard it, they wouldn’t get it.

    American exceptionalism trumps everything!

  96. 96
    Batocchio says:

    The top war song for me is probably “And the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda,” mentioned already. Makem & Clancy did an excellent version, and there are some good videos with period photos on YouTube. I also heard recent vet Brian Turner recite some of his war poetry today on the radio – moving stuff.

    For poetry and fiction, many of my picks have been mentioned already, and I’ve featured them for 11/11 or Memorial Day in previous years:

    The Guns of August
    Good-Bye to All That
    The poetry of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, Walt Whitman, Charlotte Delbo and others
    The madness that is the WWI letter from “The Little Mother”
    Pirandello’s short story “War”

  97. 97
    Gus says:

    @Batocchio: Don’t forget “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

  98. 98
    Mike G says:

    Australia’s Midnight Oil —

    Forgotten Years
    video filmed in the military cemetery at Verdun

  99. 99
    Origuy says:

    I can’t listen to this song without tears.

    Penny Evans by Steve Goodman

    Nobody mentioned Mark Twain’s War Prayer?

  100. 100
    Batocchio says:


    The intro to my copy of Good-Bye to All That was written by Paul Fussell. He quotes what Graves said on the matter of, um, truthiness:

    The memoirs of a man who went through some of the worst experiences of trench-warfare are not truthful if they do not contain a high proportion of falsities. High-explosive barrages will make a temporary liar or visionary of anyone; the old trench-mind is at work in all overestimation of casualties, “unnecessary” dwelling on horrors, mixing of dates and confusion between trench rumors and scenes actually witnessed.

    Fussell comments:

    That understood, we have been warned. In fact, one thing that makes Good-Bye to All That so permanently readable is its happy management of the literal by imposing on it such devices as suspense, surprise and irony.

    Fussell also writes:

    Graves’ fellow officers in his regiment did not go quite so far [in attacking his loyalties], but many were furious at his levities and what they considered his disrespect to those fallen in a noble cause. Sassoon and Edmund Blunden were so outraged that they set to work annotating a copy of the book, entering over five thousand words of corrections on two hundred and fifty pages. (They planned to deposit this annotated copy in the British Museum, but never did so.) And the book appalled some readers not directly concerned with the dignity of the army. Graves had taken a broad aim, saying good-bye not just to militarism but – as he said – to stylish chatter about politics, religion, literature, as well as such concerns of the empty-minded as drinking, dances, and “fun.” Those are what “all that” encompasses.

  101. 101
    Jaoc says:

    Here dead lie we because we did not choose
    To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
    Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
    But young men think it is, and we were young.

    — A.E. Houseman

  102. 102
    stickler says:

    @Tom Levenson: Mr. Levenson: Thanks for the mention. I didn’t mean to demean the procession to date, just open up things for the Germans, too.

    Since you brought up Käthe Kollwitz, folks here should know that her sculpture is the central element of the current German war memorial, in the Neue Wache in Berlin: a German version of the Pieta. And Kollwitz herself, of course, suffered loss in the war; her youngest son died in October, 1914, and her contribution to the cemetery Grieving Parents is still there.

    As though that weren’t enough, she became prominent but then suffered (limited) persecution once the Nazis came to power, saw her home bombed in 1943, with the loss of many drawings and paintings, learned of the death of a grandson in the (next) war, and then died in April 1945.

    The first half of the twentieth century was not a good time to be a European.

  103. 103
    stickler says:

    Also a brief note regarding our acts of remembering: anyone who visits a WWI cemetery might notice that all the Allied/Entente graves are marked with white crosses/headstones. And that, on Belgian and French soil, all the German graves are marked with black or gray crosses, and that most of the German graves are common or multiple.

    This is not a coincidence, nor is it because the Germans wanted it that way. It is because the French and Belgians insisted on it. If the Germans were to leave their dead on French soil, then their markers could not be white. And as they were consolidated in the 1920s, individual graves were discouraged.

    (To be fair, it wasn’t the Belgians or the French who started the war, so you can kind of understand … but, still.)

  104. 104
    jl says:

    Ernst Toller.

    “an example from the poem Leichen im Priesterwald, “Corpses in the Bois-des-Prêtres”, from the collection Vormorgen.”

    Ein Düngerhaufen faulender Menschenleiber;
    Verglaste Augen, blutgeronnen,
    Zerspellte Hirne, ausgespeiene Eingeweide,
    Die Luft verpestet vom Kadavergestank,
    Ein einzig grauenvoller Wahnsinnsschrei!

    A dunghill of decaying human corpses;
    Eyes of glass, bloodshot
    Cleaved brains, vomited bowels,
    The air infected by cadaver stench,
    A single horrifying bellow of insanity!

  105. 105
    jl says:

    August Stramm, an expressionist, killed in hand to hand combat on the eastern front. Which makes me shudder a little when I found this poem:


    Winde klatschen.
    Dein Lachen weht.
    Greifen Fassen
    Balgen Zwingen


    Winds clatter.
    Your laughter blows
    Grasp hold
    Scuffle force
    Sink down

    another by Stramm

    Yielding clod lulls iron off to sleep
    bloods clot the patches where they oozed
    rusts crumble
    fleshes slime
    sucking lusts around decay.
    Murder on murder blinks
    in childish eyes.

    August Stramm

  106. 106
    jl says:

    Found the German poets at this site, at

  107. 107
    Ruckus says:

    Thanks for the great posts.
    They stir up things in my head that I try to, if not forget, to try to diminish their brightness. These are not bad things on their own but they bring back memories of times and things I don’t normally feel the need to be reminded of. But every once in a while it is good to dust off the old internal history brain and remind oneself not just who and where we are but how we got here. Thank you for that. And all the commenters as well.

    There are many things in these posts to jog memories that I had not heard or read in a long time. Someone asked me if I would be celebrating Veterans Day and I said I normally don’t. Like many here who served in the military, I served my time during warfare and even though I wasn’t sent to combat I could have easily been. I went where I was sent, did what I was told. There is no honor in that, only duty. But there is much more honor in doing that then sending humans to wage needless war and far more honor than that in demanding that other people send humans to wage needless war that will never affect them directly. I did spend 2 months in a hospital with Marines who fought in Vietnam and the first person stories are as much warfare as I need. The look in the eyes of these men would tear out your heart. The words they spoke are even more haunting. Thinking about it affects me greatly just trying to type this and it has been almost 40 years. The average age of these men was probably 20-22 years old. I wonder what these decades of that pain has done to them? To their lives? To their families? I know what my limited contact to it has done to me. And I know why many vets spend their lives trying to forget the horrible things they know.

  108. 108
    Ian Preston says:

    The ending of Britten’s War Requiem (already mentioned above) has me biting my lip at any time but then I googled this up and realised I was hearing the same closing lines from Owen’s Strange Meeting sung in German. Given the history, that rather made the theme of reconciliation through reflection on the shared waste come over to me even more affectingly:

    I am the enemy you killed, my friend … Let us sleep now/ Lass uns schlafen nun.

    My grandfather served also, we believe, Tom, close to the Western Front in 1914-18 and most likely also as an artilleryman. It is a bit difficult to know for sure though because he was reluctant to speak about it except to say that there were things he saw which he didn’t like having to think about again.

  109. 109
    fkvidahl says:

    Billy Connelly; Sergeant Where’s Mine

  110. 110
    rickstersherpa says:

    The following books by Paul Fussell:

    “The Great War and Modern Memory” (Fussell wrote this part literary history and social history of how the Anglo-American social world changed forever because of WWI.”

    “Wartime” (Fussell’s observation that WWII was not actually so great for the guys who actually had to fight it

    “The Children’s Crusade” (Fussell’s account of his own and others lives and deaths as combat soldiers in the ETO).

    William Manchester’s “Goodbye Darkness,” his memoir as Marine in the Pacific.

    E.B. Sledge’s “With the Old Breed at Peleleiu and Okinawa”

    Ambrose Bierce’s “What I Saw at Shiloh” and other essays and short stories on the Civil War.

    Eric Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet On the Western Front”

    For a movie, I still tear up at the end of Kubrick’s “The Paths of Glory.”

  111. 111
    fidelio says:

    BIll Withers’ “I Can’t Write Left-handed”

    I can’t write left-handed
    Would you please write a letter, write a letter to my mother?
    Tell her to tell, tell her to tell, tell her to tell the family lawyer
    Trying to get, trying to get a deferment for my younger brother

    Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, Lord, Lord, Lord
    I ain’t gonna live, I don’t believe I’m going to live to get much older
    Strange little man over here in Vietnam I ain’t, I ain’t never seen
    Bless his heart ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder

    Boot camp we had classes
    You know we talked about fighting, fighting everyday
    And looking through rosy, rosy colored glasses
    I must admit it seemed exciting anyway

    Oh, but something that day overlooked to tell me, Lord
    Bullets look better, I must say
    Brother when they ain’t coming at you
    But going out the other way

    And please call up the Reverend, call up, call up the Reverend Harris
    Tell him to ask the Lord to do some good things for me
    Tell him I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live
    To get much older, oh Lord
    Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen
    Bless his heart ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder


  112. 112
    grumpy realist says:

    A shout out for Sayers as well. “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” gives a very good image of how the returning veterans integrated–or not–back into English society and how they were treated.

    I’d also highly recommend A.J.P. Taylor’s (illustrated) history of WWI. His prose is deceptively simple but devastating.

  113. 113
    aimai says:


    I’m rereading “The Great War and Modern Memory” right now, today, and I’ve got Wartime as backup. Its as great as I remember.


  114. 114

    Sung in the trenches, to the tune of Auld Lang Syne:

    We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here
    We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here

    All verses same as the first. We’re still wondering why they were there.

  115. 115
    Original Lee says:

    Thank you, Tom, for these threads. They are an important part of what Veterans’ Day should be about.

    I would like to throw out a few more works of fiction that indirectly address the impact of WWI, generally from the lighter side, but you can sense the stress underneath:

    Eleanor Estes children’s books about the Moffats, especially Rufus M.

    Agatha Christie’s early works particularly worked with WWI veterans and the many many women left behind, not to mention Poirot, a Belgian refugee.

    Barbara Hambly wrote “Bride of the Rat God,” featuring a widow and a conscientious objector in post-WWI Hollywood.

  116. 116
    Gus says:

    If anyone’s still reading this thread, Ruckus’ post reminded me of the reader post on Roger Ebert’s blog here Read the whole piece, but especially the piece at the bottom. And the post is about John Prine so add “Sam Stone” and “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” to the song list.

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