Monday, February 28, 2011

The Lost Generation

Yesterday the last American veteran of World War I, Mr. Frank W. Buckles, died in West Virgina at the age of 110. 65 million people were mobilized for World War I. As of this writing, only two remain.

Gertrude Stein called them the
Lost Generation. Perhaps nobody really personifies that feeling of futility for us better than Wilfred Owen. Owen was shot crossing the Sambre-Oise canal on November 4th , 1918, exactly one week before The Armistice was declared. Owen's mother received the telegram confirming his death the very day the bells began ringing in England, pealing the end of The War To End All Wars.

Today, in memory of Frank, and all of the others, living, dead, or scheduled to be swept away by events in the 21st Century, I would like to post a poem by Wilfred Owen. Not his most famous poem, but I think one of his most poignant and perfectly realized.


Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?

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