By Wilfred Owen
Halted against the shade of a last hill
They fed, and eased of pack-loads, were at ease;
And leaning on the nearest chest or knees,
Carelessly slept. But many there stood still
To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge,
Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world.
Marvelling they stood, and watched the long grass swirled
By the May breeze, murmurous with wasp and midge;
And though the summer oozed into their veins
Like an injected drug for their bodies' pains,
Sharp on their souls hung the imminent ridge of grass,
Fearfully flashed the sky's mysterious glass.
Hour after hour they ponder the warm field
And the far valley behind, where the buttercups
Had blessed with gold their slow boots coming up;
When even the little brambles would not yield
But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing arms.
They breathe like trees unstirred.
Till like a cold gust thrills the little word
At which each body and its soul begird
And tighten them for battle. No alarms
Of bugles, no high flags, no clamorous haste,-
Only a lift and flare of eyes that faced
The sun, like a friend with whom their love is done.
O larger shone that smile against the sun,-
Mightier than his whose bounty these have spurned.
So, soon they topped the hill, and raced together
Over an open stretch of herb and heather
Exposed. And instantly the whole sky burned
With fury against them; earth set sudden cups
In thousands for their blood; and the green slope
Chasmed and steepened sheer to infinite space.
Of them who running on that last high place
Breasted the surf of bullets, or went up
On the hot blast and fury of hell's upsurge,
Or plunged and fell away past this world's verge,
Some say God caught them even before they fell.
But what say such as from existence' brink
Ventured but drave too swift to sink,
The few who rushed in the body to enter hell,
And there out-fiending all its fiends and flames
With superhuman inhumanities,
Long-famous glories, immemorial shames-
And crawling slowly back, have by degrees
Regained cool peaceful air in wonder-
Why speak not they of comrades that went under?
It is never a bad afternoon at the ballpark when your team wins 10-4 with multiple home runs, some by the same batter. The Dodgers' pitchers were not having a good day at all, but the Nationals' Nick Johnson had a good game by anyone's reckoning -- two home runs, so much for his slump -- plus Alfonso Soriano got a homer and Ramon Ortiz, who earned the win, got a hit and turned it into two bases on an error. Everything after the third inning was anticlimactic -- the Nats got five runs -- and one of the relief pitchers hit two batters and walked in a run, and we were trying to figure out when Nomar Garciaparra ended up on the Dodgers since we thought he was on the Cubs.
Of course, since we were at a ball game (with my parents, it being my father's birthday -- he was grumpy about that, and about having a head cold), we ate lots of hot dogs and chicken fingers and french fries and peanuts and ice cream and crap, so we weren't all that hungry for dinner and ended up ordering a pizza back at my parents' house. apaulled had made my father a white chocolate and strawberry cake, two of his favorite things, so he was quite pleased about that. Plus they have a new deck set with reclining chairs and a big glass table and umbrella so they were happy to be able to show that off. And there is a nest full of baby birds in the awning between the house and the garage and I got great photos of them! My parents are likely not to be around for Father's Day, as it's on their 45th wedding anniversary and they are talking about going out of town, so this was kind of the big dad celebration.
When we finally came home, we put on the national capitol Memorial Day concert which had caused traffic getting to the stadium to be an unmitigated nightmare, as most major routes into DC from the GW Parkway were closed...I expected to find it entirely odious, not only because there were some singers in the lineup I really don't like (though seeing Jonathan Kent singing was really fun -- John Schneider has a definitely Shatneresque quality about him!) And when Colin Powell showed up and they spotted John Roberts in the audience, I rolled my eyes and said yup, this'll be the great Republican Party self-congratulatory veteran-fest. Maybe that's what the producers intended, but it sure didn't play that way...there was a strong "what the hell are our sons and daughters still doing in Iraq" vibe through the entire production, and Dianne Wiest had me sobbing when she read the story of the woman whose son was planning to be a pediatrician, who died with a group of his National Guard buddies. (I also never knew Charles Durning's story...so devastating, to have survived a POW camp only to learn that he'd been declared dead and his wife had remarried.) Anyway, there seemed to be an emphasis on the reasons for previous wars, how senseless this one feels and the need to bring the soldiers home. Made it worth sitting through some of the country music that is not my thing.
dementordelta told me to post the baby birds but since it is Memorial Day (and now I am singing the TOFOG song with that title -- Russell Crowe's mother's father was a filmmaker during WWII), and since I went to the baseball game, I will start and end with a couple more photos from Arlington National Cemetery and include Ortiz pitching and the birds peeking:
World War II veterans and an honor guard salute as Taps is played at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Monday we are going to see the new replica Godspeed docked in Alexandria!