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Old 11-10-2018, 07:59 PM
Jayne Osborn's Avatar
Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Default No Light, No Warmth, November 1917

Revision 2:

We're cold, hungry, wet - there's no comfort for us
in this miserable, dark muddy trench.
No laughter, no interesting things to discuss;
No point in crying, or making a fuss
about lice, or the rank, bloody stench.

A man is just grateful to find he survives,
(we pinch ourselves each time we wake.)
No certain future with girlfriends or wives;
No dream-free sleep for the rest of our lives.
These are thoughts that cause hard men to break.

To serve King and country you end up in hell,
though you're told to be fearless and brave.
There's no way of knowing, no-one can foretell, -
your time's simply up if your name's on that shell.
"KILLED IN ACTION" is put on your grave.

We don’t even understand what it’s all for;
in the future, will nations remember?
Not one of us wants to fight on any more,
but they’ve told us there won’t be another World War,
after this. No assurance. No promise. November.

Revision 1:

We're cold, hungry, wet - there's no comfort for us
in this miserable, dark muddy trench.
No laughter, no interesting things to discuss;
No point in crying, or making a fuss
about lice, or the rank, bloody stench.
A man is just grateful to find he survives,
(we pinch ourselves each time we wake.)
No certain future with girlfriends or wives;
No dream-free sleep for the rest of our lives.
These are thoughts that cause hard men to break.

To serve King and country you end up in hell,
though you're told to be fearless and brave.
There's no way of knowing, no-one can foretell, -
your time's simply up if your name's on that shell.
"KILLED IN ACTION" is put on your grave.
What a waste of good men. All this war will achieve
is to mutilate, maim and dismember.
"The War To End Wars", we've been led to believe,
not knowing that millions of families would grieve.
Generations to come, please remember.

Original:

We're cold, hungry, wet - there's no comfort for us
in this miserable, dark muddy trench.
No laughter, no interesting things to discuss;
No point in crying, or making a fuss
about lice, or the sickening stench.
A man is just grateful to find he survives,
(we pinch ourselves each time we wake.)
No certain future with girlfriends or wives;
No dream-free sleep for the rest of our lives.
These are thoughts that cause hard men to break.

To serve King and country you end up in hell,
though you're told to be fearless and brave.
There's no way of knowing, no-one can foretell, -
your time's simply up if your name's on that shell.
"KILLED IN ACTION" is put on your grave.
What a waste of good men. All this war will achieve
is to mutilate, maim and dismember.
"The War To End Wars", we've been led to believe,
not knowing that millions of families would grieve.
Generations to come, please remember.
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  #2  
Old 11-10-2018, 08:20 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Hello, Jayne,

I enjoyed this WWI piece very much. The four-stress accentual rhythm gives it a folksy tone that I like.

There were two places where I felt words were just being added to fill out the line:

"sickening" in "about lice, or the sickening stench." I think you can improve on "sickening."

Then in "is to mutilate, maim and dismember" I think the verbs are too close in meaning.

Best,

Aaron
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Old 11-10-2018, 09:10 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Seems to trivialise the true horror and bleakness of the trenches Jayne. The lines :

No laughter, no interesting things to discuss;

(we pinch ourselves each time we wake.)
No certain future with girlfriends or wives;
No dream-free sleep for the rest of our lives.


would rather accrue to time spent when they were not at the sharp end.

The bleakness and futility is missing.

One opinion, regards

Jan
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Old 11-11-2018, 07:03 AM
Jayne Osborn's Avatar
Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Aaron,
Thank you for your helpful comments. I wrote this over twenty years ago, but decided to post it for the centenary of Armistice Day.

I agree with you about ''sickening stench"; it's clichéd, so I've revised it to include ''bloody'' as an internal rhyme for ''muddy''. I hope you think that's better.

Regarding ''mutilate, maim and dismember'', I take your point that it's tautological, but I quite like the alliteration, though I'm thinking about how to change that line and the last one. They both end in --member, which isn't a true rhyme and I've never been satisfied with them.

Thanks again.

Jan,
I certainly had no intention of trivialising the horror of the trenches, the exact opposite being true, so I'm sorry it didn't work for you.

Just an aside: I went to the cinema to see They Shall Not Grow Old on Friday night. (See ''The Movies'' thread )
The soldiers were not actually ''at the sharp end'' for much of the time. Do watch the film if you get the chance - it's an incredible feat by director Peter Jackson!

Jayne
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Old 11-11-2018, 08:13 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Jayne,

I think you should try a radical revision of the last four lines. They are problematic for the tautology, the non-"member" rhyme and because the soldiers in the trenches seem to be aware of WWII. I think you could get the irony of "The war to end wars" over another way.

Best,

Aaron
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Old 11-11-2018, 08:21 AM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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A good observation, Aaron!

Yes, I need to rethink the 2nd half of S2. Thanks again.

Jayne
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Old 11-11-2018, 09:36 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
This line absolutely pulses throughout the rest of the poem for me:

No dream-free sleep for the rest of our lives.

IMO, this line says what Jan wants this to say -- in one line.

Fyi, I read your post over on the "Movies" thread. I found/posted a WW1 poem written recently by Carol Duffy that moved me.
x
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Old 11-11-2018, 01:17 PM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Hi Jim,

Thanks, I'm glad you found that line helps to put across the message I was trying to convey; the abject horror of the trench warfare was almost beyond words. It makes me feel humble even to attempt to express it!

And thank you for the post on the Movies thread. I find it very moving, all the stuff about both of the World Wars.

I've just come home from seeing a performance of "The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace'' by Karl Jenkins.

Jayne
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Old 11-12-2018, 05:04 PM
Philip Sass Philip Sass is offline
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Hi Jayne,

I enjoyed reading your poem although there's obviously little joy in it. I agree with Jan, "No laughter, no interesting things to discuss" strikes me as a bit too trivial and maybe not even true, war and your family at home probably make for a few interesting conversations.
Why don't you start the next line (4) with "There's" or "And" to make it scan (I'm sorry I don't know a better word, I hope you get what I mean)?
And you probably already ruled it out since it's so obvious, but you could avoid the true rhyme of -ember with November.

Anyway, the ending made me think of a german poem by Erich Kästner called "Stimmen aus dem Massengrab" (Voices from the mass grave) from 1928, its penultimate stanza reads:
"Da liegen wir, den toten Mund voll Dreck.
Und es kam anders, als wir sterbend dachten.
Wir starben. Doch wir starben ohne Zweck.
Ihr lasst Euch morgen, wie wir gestern, schlachten."

"There we lie, our dead mouths full of dirt.
Things didn't go as we expected them to as we were dying.
We died. But we died in vain.
You'll let yourselves be slaughtered tomorrow as we did yesterday."

And the final lines of "Verdun, viele Jahre später" (Verdun, many years later):
"Auf den Schlachtfeldern von Verdun
wachsen Leichen als Vermächtnis.
Täglich sagt der Chor der Toten:
„Habt ein besseres Gedächtnis!""

"On the battlefields of Verdun
corpses grow as a legacy.
Every day the choir of the dead sings:
Have a better memory!"

– Not the best of poems by Kästner if you want to end on a happy note but I thought you might find its similarities to your poem's final line quite interesting.

Philip
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Old 11-12-2018, 06:08 PM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Hi Philip,

Firstly, Wilkommen bei Eratosphere!

Secondly, many thanks for taking the time to post here in The Deep End, along with those poem extracts (and thanks for the translations too!) My husband works for a German company and his sister has lived in Schwarzwald for all of her adult life; I'm the one who didn't learn German at school, and hasn't bothered since, to my shame.

I deliberately didn't start lines 3 and 4 with "There's'' or ''And'', to echo the title's "No Light, No Warmth..."

The point of L3: No laughter, no interesting things to discuss is that the N feels so miserable that he doesn't want to laugh or talk, rather than the fact that there isn't anything interesting to talk about. I didn't want the poem to be too horrific and graphic, whilst still trying to get the message across that it was truly awful in the trenches.

Yes, you're right about ''November''; I could work that into those last four lines, but I've been so busy I haven't got around to thinking of a revision yet. I must try to do it soon. Having written this poem twenty years ago I never thought I'd post it anywhere, ...much less have to re-work it!

Thank you again, Philip.

Jayne
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