The Trench Dreamers

Dreamers have always been among humans since the beginning.  At times they have been rejected and at other times embraced.

Perhaps, a good summary of dreamers is the following quote from Senator Robert Kennedy:

There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Young men and women have dreams, hopes and fears.  In their naivety and innocence the young are insulated from the harsh realities of life.

War is a robber of innocence, hope and dreams.  Unfortunately, in many instances it extinguishes that young life full of dreams, hopes, potential and promise.

World War I was a bloody and grueling ordeal which saw the slaughter of young men like hogs on market day.  Those who survived the heinous reality returned home with their innocence shattered like a rock tossed deliberately through an old church window.

One of these survivors was English Lieutenant Siegfried Sassoon.  He lost a brother and many friends in the Great War.  He was wounded twice and received medals for his bravery on the field of battle where he was nicknamed “Mad Jack”.  He seemed to have no fear of death or the German machine guns and mustard gas.

Eventually, Siegfried became convinced that war was just another political game that Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Emperors and other old men played as they would a chess game.  The only difference between war and chess is that the pieces, human beings, are fragile and die in the mud far from home.

There are times when anti-war protests including an assortment of songs blare across our heads; advocated by those who never set foot on a battlefield or served in their country’s armed forces.  This is not to discount those voices, but to bring a perspective.

When those who have served and fought add their voices to the protest it brings a more somber tone to the fever pitch of the drums of peace.  When they protest, they know of what they speak; their experiences will haunt their dreams for the rest of their lives.

Siegfried Sassoon wrote many poems and spoke at many lecterns to express his views, personal and poignant.  Listed below is one of his poems which was published in 1918.

Dreamers

Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,

Drawing no dividend from time’s tomorrows.  

In the great hour of destiny they stand,

Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.  

Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win  

Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.

Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin

They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,

And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,  

Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,

And mocked by hopeless longing to regain  

Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,

And going to the office in the train. Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,

Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows.

In the great hour of destiny they stand,

Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.

Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win

Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.

Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin

They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

 I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,

And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,

Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,

And mocked by hopeless longing to regain

Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,

And going to the office in the train.

 This simple sonnet in fourteen lines conveys so much about life in a World War I trench where so many young men died and their dreams perished in the muddy trough.  Those who survived lost limbs both physically and mentally.  War is a memory which never goes away until the final breath.

For countless centuries war has raged on this planet traversing the cosmos.  Human life becomes a spent commodity, especially for the women and children who suffer the atrocities of war.

Dressed in fancy uniforms and suits, drinking brandy and smoking cigars, elegant parties of state, and the bloodlust of power never seem to cease even in the most civilized and educated leaders of the nations on this earth.  The young pay the price for all those trappings of the delusionary lives of those who plot and plan in their war rooms.

Siegfried Sassoon:

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this War, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest.

G. D. Williams       © 2013

POST 516

References:

Siegfried Sassoon (September 8, 1886 – September 1, 1967)

siegfried-sassoon-war-poet-source

http://www.glogster.com/scaza/siegfried-sassoon-war-poet/g-6lm3hu9akbjs35icisd4ia0

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/siegfried-sassoon

http://www.poemhunter.com/siegfried-sassoon/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/sassoon_siegfried.shtml

http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/sassoon

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jsassoon.htm

Dreamers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpPKly2Pc8o

http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides5/Dreamers.html

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