By: Matthias Baudinet
2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of the First World War. The War to end all wars they called it…obviously that did not turn out as predicted. All over Europe parades, celebrations, festivals, events, etc. are being held in honor of the men that were sent to their deaths by their superiors. This is a big year for many Europeans, for even to this day the lands of the old continent still bear the marks and scars of that terrible war. On a more personal note, I had relatives who fought in the war, and being from the region of France where a lot of the battles of the war took place, I grew up learning a lot about the war and its damage and stupidity. Like many families who are from that area of France, the First World War played a huge part in my family’s history.
As the year goes on, let us remember the brave souls who risked their lives or died for a cause that many did not fully understand. With over 16 million deaths (not counting wounded or missing), the “Great” War was unlike any other war that the world had ever seen at the time. Though many people in our generation may not feel connected to the war and the importance that it had on the world, or simply do not know a lot about the war, it is important that during this centennial we educate people about this war.
In honor of those who participated in the war, and to the civilians who suffered daily because of the war, and to my great-grandfather, who fought for 3 years for the French Army, here is a poem by Isaac Rosenberg called Break of Day in the Trenches (1916):
The darkness crumbles away —
it is the same old Druid time has ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand —
A queer sardonic rat —
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German —
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver — what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.
“If any question why they died, tell them, because our fathers lied.” -Rudyard Kipling, 1915