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Old 10-01-2018, 04:39 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Default Philistines and Foxbrands

REVISION the Umpteenth

Philistines and Foxbrands

“O Stolid Philistines
Stare now in amaze
At my foxes running in your cornfields
With their tails ablaze.”

(Angry Samson-Robert Graves)


I-The Philistines

The World Stage has opened with choirs of songbirds,
and black rats that dance fat on bodies and duckboards.

Created from need now, my sweet girl has risen,
an Uber Valkyrie who rides with the storm troops
of donner und blitzen

My stiff neck starts shaking,
I'm racked down with laughter as foxbrands are burning
in cornfields my daughter will turn into wasteland.

An erstwhile Brunhilde, she cuts cross and dum dums
the rounds down beside her. Her trench wears such neat hems
of dead men and horses.

(The sun lights more foxtails.)

She snorts and she curses then slow-whets with ribbed steel
a bright butcher's knife-edge.

Her thumb wets her foresight
She lies on her trench ledge and drops them in death-sweat
with sharp barks of gunfire.

The One God betrays them
in blind mud and barbed wire.


II-The Foxbrands

We kneel down before Him.
“O Lord God of Battles how ragged the rattle
of small arms and breathing.”

We're unquiet cattle
who mill in the trenches. Our nerve ends are jangled
and rumours are seething like maggots inside us.
The stench is appalling.

The big guns begin now
and false dawn is tangled with light from the shelling.

We shift to the ladders, the noncoms are yelling,
our bayonets are angled and whistles start blowing.
We're up and we're over and running and screaming.

Sopranos of courage, the boy-men who lead us
are tripping and falling,

they shrill into silence,
the mad rush is stalling.

Retreating and leaving
dead comrades behind us we shuffle to trenches
as stoic as oxen that do as they're bidden.

Our stiff lips and foxes (one shown and one hidden)
define us and bind us.

The snipers who shoot down
the trapped and the dying are blessings and curses.

The sun dawns on sadness, on wire and craters,
on black mud and madness.

We now know what hate is.


III-The Cornfields


The Death Hound has gone now and quick foxes run free.
The grass grows and spring fills the bone hands with new leaves.

The bronze bells carillon in air thick with flowers.
The children are schooling in shoals sweet with laughter.
They dart through the cornfields while playing at chasings.

We sop bread in red wine, it languids the hours
that stretch out through peacetime and into hereafter,
forgetting that ploughs yield to verdigrised casings.

Beneath clay and dark earth the black hate has vanished.
The spring corn's a blanket on victors and vanquished.

Their flesh joined as one flesh,
their bones joined as one bone.
They plump out the bread grain,
and bleed through the grape vine.

But growing between breaths of human existence
there’s sadness in knowing that hatred’s not finished,
as life was created with songs of destruction
to sleep in the blood of the living like cancers.












REVISIONS AND ADDITIONS

Philistines and Foxbrands

“O Stolid Philistines
Stare now in amaze
At my foxes running in your cornfields
With their tails ablaze.”


(Angry Samson-Robert Graves)

I-The Philistines

The World Stage has opened with choirs of songbirds,
and black rats that dance fat on bodies and duckboards.

Created from need now, my girl-child has risen,
an Uber Valkyrie, who's freed from her prison,
She's ready for duty and sleeps with her rifle.

My stiff neck starts shaking, I'm racked down with laughter
as foxbrands are burning in cornfields my daughter
will turn into wasteland.

The spring corn's a blaShe cuts cross and dum dums
the rounds down beside her. Her trench wears such neat hems
of dead men and horses.

The spring corn's a bla(The sun lights more foxtails.)

She snorts and she curses then slow-whets with ribbed steel
a bright butcher's knife-edge.

The spring corn's a blaHer thumb wets her foresight
She lies on her trench ledge and drops them in death-sweat
with sharp barks of gunfire.

The spring corn's a blaThe One God betrays Them
in blind mud and barbed wire.


II-The Foxbrands

The spring corn's a blaWe kneel down before Him.
“O Lord God of Battles how ragged the rattle
of small arms and breathing.”

The spring corn's a blaWe're unquiet cattle
who mill in the trenches. Our nerve ends are jangled
and rumours are seething like maggots inside us.
The stench is appalling.

The spring corn's a blaThe big guns begin now
and false dawn is tangled with light from the shelling.

We shift to the ladders, the noncoms are yelling,
our bayonets are angled and whistles start blowing.
We're up and we're over and running and screaming.

Sopranos of courage, the boy-men who lead us
are tripping and falling,

The spring corn's a blathey shrill into silence,
the mad rush is stalling.

The spring corn's a blaRetreating and leaving
dead comrades behind us we shuffle to trenches
as stoic as oxen that do as they're bidden.

Our stiff lips and foxes (one shown and one hidden)
define us and bind us.

The spring corn's a blaThe snipers who shoot down
the trapped and the dying are blessings and curses.

The sun dawns on sadness, on wire and craters,
on black mud and madness.

The spring corn's a blaWe now know what hate is.


III-The Cornfields


The Death Hound has gone now, the quick foxes run free
and tree bones are live again each greened with new leaves.

The bronze bells carillon in air thick with flowers
and children are schooling in shoals sweet with laughter.
They dart through the cornfields while playing at chasings.

We sop bread in red wine, it languids the hours
that stretch out through peacetime and into hereafter,
forgetting that ploughs yield to verdigrised casings.

Beneath clay and dark earth
The spring corn's a blathe black hate has vanished.

The spring corn's a blanket on victors and vanquished.

Their flesh joined as one flesh,
The spring corn's a blatheir bones joined as one bone.

They plump out the bread grain
The spring corn's a blaand bleed through our Church wine.


ORIGINAL

Philistines and Foxbrands

“O Stolid Philistines
Stare now in amaze
At my foxes running in your cornfields
With their tails ablaze.”


(Angry Samson-Robert Graves)

I-The Philistines

My stiff neck is shaking, I'm racked down with laughter
as foxbrands are burning in cornfields my daughter
will turn out as wasteland.

will turn out as wasteland.My sweet girl is steel fanged
and flint-tongued, a death-hound. Her trigger is hair-fine.
She loads, fat with powder and cuts-cross to dum-dum
the rounds down beside her.

will turn out as wasteland.Her trench wears such neat hems
of dead men and horses.

will turn out as wasteland.(The sun lights more foxtails.)

She snorts and she curses then slow-whets with ribbed steel
a bright butcher's knife-edge.

will turn out as wasteland.Her thumb wets her foresight
She lies on her trench ledge and drops them in death-sweat
with sharp barks of gunfire.

will turn out as wasteland.The One God betrays them
in blind mud and barbed wire.


II-The Foxbrands

will turn out as wasteland.We kneel down before Him.
O Lord God of Battles how ragged the rattle
of small arms and breathing.

will turn out as wasteland.We're unquiet cattle
who mill in the trenches. Our nerve ends are jangled
and rumours are seething like maggots inside us.
The stench is appalling.

will turn out as wasteland.The big guns begin now
and false dawn is tangled with lights from the shelling.

We shift to the ladders, the noncoms are yelling,
our bayonets are angled and whistles start blowing.
We're up and we're over and running and screaming.

Sopranos of courage, the boy-men who lead us
are tripping and falling, they shrill into silence,
the mad rush is stalling.

will turn out as wasteland.Retreating and leaving
dead comrades behind us we shuffle in trenches
as stoic as oxen that do as they're bidden.
Our stiff lips and foxes (one shown and one hidden)
define us and bind us.

will turn out as wasteland.The snipers who shoot down
the trapped and the dying are blessings and curses.

The sun dawns on sadness, on wire and craters,
on black mud and madness.

will turn out as wasteland.We now know what hate is.

Last edited by Jan Iwaszkiewicz; 11-07-2018 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 10-02-2018, 05:40 AM
Ann Drysdale's Avatar
Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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Where am I? I feel it's a specific battlefield but can't pin it down.

Your sweet girl comes across to me as a sophisticated but old-fashioned gun. A metaphor perhaps?

Two armies are entrenched. The Philistines are winning. Superior weaponry?

The foxes are dying. They are led by brave fools. They will not forget.

I am stepping tentatively onto your battlefield, Jan, sticking to No-man's Land and watching carefully, but I'm still not sure where I am and why you want me to be here.

Is there no-one else?
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Old 10-02-2018, 06:35 AM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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The war to end all wars Ann, the heyday of trench warfare.

The Germans were portrayed in the propaganda of the day as Philistines.

Samson, the whorehound, did not give a damn about the foxes, whose tails he tied together and set alight, sending them into the wheat of the Philistines. I see parallels.

I do have a part three that makes it clearer but am unsure whether it adds anything.

What do you think of the bacchius/amphibrach mix?

Jan
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Old 10-02-2018, 07:05 AM
Ann Drysdale's Avatar
Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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What do I think of the bacchius/amphibrach mix?

I didn't recognise it particularly; I was just aware (reading aloud) of a pulse that emphasised the humanity of the subjects who were all being de-humanised by their situation.

I identified the Philistines as baddies because of the cross-cutting of the bullets to make them "dum-dum" (in effect) and I had a vague idea this was illegal, but it's definitely not cricket, so to speak. I also had a frisson of gun-love and the right to bear arms.

In that light, I had identified them as UK/US troops, because of the diction and implication of privilege and was looking for an oppressed minority to be the Fox-flares. See how current politics are weighing heavily on me?

I shall read on and report back. Let's hope others join us.
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Old 10-02-2018, 08:28 PM
J.B. Marshall J.B. Marshall is offline
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Default Philistines and Foxbrands

Hi Jan,
I got that we were in the trench warfare of WWI. The inclusion of words like "trench", "horses", and "bayonets" clued me in to where we were.
I like the "Foxbrands" section better than the "Philistines." I thought that "Foxbrands" vividly tells the story of a failed advance of troops in a battle from the point of view of the ordinary soldiers in the trenches.
The amphibrach works well here as the meter has an uneven quality that fits the confusion of the battle - at least in my ear it does.
Some lines that stood out for me:
rumours are seething like maggots inside us
false dawn is tangled with lights from the shelling.
we shuffle in trenches/as stoic as oxen that do as they're bidden.

What do these 2 lines mean however?
Our stiff lips and foxes (one shown and one hidden)
define us and bind us.


The "Philistines" did not work for me as well. Characterizing the machine gun as "my daughter" was confusing. I had to read it through a couple of times. There are some standout lines in this first section such as this vivid picture of the machine gun:
She loads, fat with powder and cuts-cross to dum-dum
the rounds down beside her.

The first section of the poem seems to be serving the meter rather than the meter serving the poem. With the lines 6 and 7 above, the meter works beautifully, but other lines seem forced to me.
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Old 10-02-2018, 09:29 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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As a curious side note, the Austro-British philosopher Wittgenstein studied in England before WWI, enlisted and was decorated for exemplary and hazardous duty at various fronts in the Austro-Hungarian army, and returned to England in 1929. An erstwhile friend of sorts referred to him as "our" 'favorite machine-gunner' philosopher, although Wikipedia says he did artillery spotting on no-man's land that someone, somewhere else said was aided by his excellent sense of pitch that could hear the different doppler whines of incoming shells. He apparently had a death fixation, but survived to say things like:

Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.
The world is everything that is the case.

Was der Fall ist, die Tatsache, ist das Bestehen von Sachverhalten.
What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts.

* * *

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

Last edited by Allen Tice; 10-02-2018 at 09:33 PM.
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Old 10-04-2018, 06:01 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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You have all given me much to think about and I can see that revision is necessary and I thank you. I will be back with changes and individual response.

My thanks again, Jan
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Old 10-04-2018, 10:34 PM
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Jan, again this isn't pertinent to your poem, which is powerful, but I want to say that I don't endorse the English translation of the second of Wittgenstein's statements that I pulled from the current Wikipedia item, even if the English itself is true enough. The translations of the more famous first and third of those sayings I posted are good enough. Do carry on with your poem!
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Old 10-08-2018, 02:29 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Oo-er. I very rarely venture into this deep neck of the woods. But the title drew me in (eventually). And what an interesting eye-rhyme to open with!

It's intense, Jan, and involving. I didn't recognise the metric measure you were using - amphibrach, eh? Had to look that up - and I think it's very effective. Over a long stretch it has an effect that I imagine, in some way, mimics the effect of bombardment.

I see that a revision is pending. I look forward to seeing that.

Cheers

David
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Old 10-08-2018, 06:26 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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No US troops Ann UK and Commonwealth.

Indeed not cricket but the dum dum was initially a British creation developed in India and was a hollow point but the cruciform expanding bullet is generally seen as the dum dum. As far as I know it was not used in WWI but I used it as a nod to the propaganda battle of war. It has parallels to the square crossbow bolts that were not allowed to be used against Christians, more hypocrisy from the whores of combat.

"Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails” (King James Bible).Leaders sending lesser beings into death without a qualm. Samson’s reasons are more than a little interesting but as in all conflict winners are grinners.

The amphibrach is not uneven J.B. that quality here is because of the mix of bacchius and amphibrach.

The hidden fox comes out of the classical education that subalterns at the beginning of WWI would have had, and goes in line with the tradition of the British ‘stiff upper lip’.

A well-known story that proves the Spartan training and loyalty is this: Once, a 13 year old Spartan boy stole a fox from a village near his camp. Alas, a trainer found him and asked him what he was doing off campus. The boy had seen the trainer and had hidden the fox beneath his cloth. As the boy said nothing, the trainer insisted. The fox, still alive, beneath the boy's cloth, started scratching him, in order to escape. While doing that, the boy continued to deny the stealing until the wounds suffered by the fox killed him. Ancient History Encyclopedia

No machine gun made was fired with with flint and steel but what I had was not clear and hopefully I have clarified in revision. The comment that you had read about my work being rhyme driven was factually incorrect and driven by reasons other than honest critique.

Hello Allen I would more look to Trakl, but the first Wittgenstein and the third are incredibly apt.

I hope that the revisions and additions put it into a clearer context.

Hello David a mixture of Bacchius and Amphribach. The Bacchius on its own would have been too heavy and the amphibrach too light so the mix gave me a rhythmical soundscape with quite a degree of flexibility.

My thanks to you all and my hopes that the revisions and additions address your reservations.

Jan
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