"A Copse. Evening"

"A Copse. Evening"
A. Y. Jackson, 1918
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Armistice Day!

On this day, originally meant to commemorate the ending of the defining debacle of the twentieth century but now sanitized into a poor imitation of Decoration Day (AKA Memorial Day), we're going to cover the story of one man of many for whom the end of the war meant a great deal.
Private Patrick Fowler of Prince Albert's Own 11th Hussars, after being separated from his unit in 1914 and spending five months hiding out in the woods, spent most of the next four years living in one side of an armoire in the care of a sympathetic French widow.
The cabinet was divided vertically by a partition the right side being filled with shelves while the left was open top to bottom, five and a half feet by twenty inches.
Pat hung out in the left hand side - even when there were German officers billeted in the house. They initially searched the house but, when they saw that the right contained shelves they assumed the left was the same. The widow left the right door open all the time to reinforce the idea and allay suspicion.
Private Fowler spent his days crouched in the cupboard watching the Germans through the keyhole. At night he'd come out and eat with the women of the house while the officers slept.
The house was searched again but Mme. Belmont-Gobert, having had a premonition, had hid him under a mattress.
In the latter part of the war the widow was forced to move to a smaller cottage. During the move she had the unbelievable audacity to ask the German soldiers to move the armoire for her - which they did along with the cavalry private contained therein.
Time Magazine, March 21, 1927.
London Telegraph, 2000.
Pat's war actually ended a month earlier than everyone else's. When the last German had hiked off to the East in mid October, 1918, he finally "came out of the closet".

So, happy ending.
Now a poem, written in 1919 exploring the seeming collapse of civilization, it is quoted extensively.
I think that it's especially relevant in these ridiculous times (can you say "President Palin"?)

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
               THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre 
   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
   
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
   
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
   
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere 
   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
   
The best lack all conviction, while the worst 
   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand; 
   
Surely the Second Coming is at hand. 
   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out 
   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi 
   
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand; 
   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man, 
   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, 
   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it 
   
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds. 
   
The darkness drops again but now I know 
   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep 
   
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, 
   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, 
   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

2 comments:

Andy said...

I think you're giving the tea baggers WAY too much credit there Dan! Was waiting on the whole on the 11th...of the 11th of the 11th thing.Good post, you've got to admit, there are worse places to hide out a war.

Dan brock said...

We need the tea baggers. "Laugh-in" isn't on anymore.
The Paranoid Garden Gnome thinks Sarah would rock as Pres. Or The Ted.
I really hope she runs.

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