Nov 4 is the anniversary of Wilfred Owen’s death, Sassoon was haunted by it, thought he should have died too in the ‘Great War’. It's too easy to forget this country is at war, that our soldiers are on foreign fields. There are always wars, and always poets writing about them.
Athelstan, a patient man, called up his West Saxon
and Mercian levies, walked down the Don Valley into autumn
and attacked the Celts and Norse in the mist at dawn.
Hand to hand fighting shook the ground like mortars,
scribes recorded its barbarity and called it the Great War.
The English won and cut their map.
A white anonymous stone, a definitive memorial:
256410 Driver George Bennett
Field Artillery 31st July 1917
My great uncle died on the first day of Passchendaele, avoiding what became some of the worst fighting of the war. I read his last letter at a reading once with tears . . .
I expect I shall be going up with the Ammn to night. It is indeed the worst Battle Front I have been on . . . I am longing to be with you & to comfort to love and to cherish you, no matter how long we have to be apart, you will always have a good true lover, & if God does not grant us, to be united in this world, may we be united in the next. . . .
I wouldn’t be here, without George’s death. His brother John married his fiancé, my grandmother.
Some remarkable poetry was written in that war, Edward Thomas, David Jones and Isaac Rosenberg being my favourites. Yeats excluded the most famous from The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, but then Senator Yeats spent the Civil War at the Savile Club, Piccadilly.