Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Send-Off, by Wilfred Owen

This morning we had our annual Remembrance Day parade on Chapel Square, in memory of those Columbans who have died in wars over the decades. So our Poem of the Week is 'The Send-Off' by Wilfred Owen, who wrote it 90 years ago. A fascimile of the draft can be seen on Oxford University's outstanding resource, the Wilfred Owen Multimedia Archive. (you can follow the drafting process through several images). And the BBC's 'Remembrance' micro-site ('Ninety Years of Remembrance') can be accessed here, and the Guardian's micro-site here.

The Send-Off

Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.

Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men's are, dead.

Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.

Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.

So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent;

Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.

Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild train-loads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,

May creep back, silent, to village wells,
Up half-known roads.

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