Today is the one hundredth anniversary of the ending of WW I — also known as “The War to End All Wars”. A person could easily write about the evils of war. Many an author has done just that, but, personally, I don’t think any author could really get it right.
I don’t think any author can do justice to the horrors of war, to the loss and tragedy that comes with each stilled heart. Not even documentaries or war movies or newsreels can really grasp the scope of so many lives destroyed.
Sixteen million people died in World War I.
On the hundred year anniversary to the ending of an indescribably horrific time in human history, I’d like to offer two poems written by people who loved each other and lost their future together because of…well, historians may be able to better tell why the war happened and why an innocents was lost that will never be regained.
An entire generation of young men died in the war. Here is a poem written by one of those young men, to his fiance. Followed by a poem she wrote after learning of his death. I think these words transdend time (as perhaps, all words do).
I mourn the words that were never written. The stories never told. We are a darker world because of it.
Violets from Plug Street Wood,
Sweet, I send you oversea.
(It is strange they should be blue,
Blue, when his soaked blood was red,
For they grew around his head;
It is strange they should be blue.)
Violets from Plug Street Wood—
Think what they have meant to me—
Life and Hope and Love and You
(And you did not see them grow
Where his mangled body lay,
Hiding horror from the day;
Sweetest, it was better so.)
Violets from oversea,
To you dear, far forgetting land.
These I send in memory,
Knowing You will understand.
Roland Leighton 1915 (Testament of Youth)
To Roland Leighton
Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,
And I shall see that still the skies are blue,
And feel once more I do not live in vain,
Although bereft of You.
Perhaps the gold meadows at my feet
Will make the sunny hours of spring seem gay,
And I shall find the white May-blossoms sweet,
Though You have passed away.
Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright
And crimson roses once again be fair,
And autumn harvest fields a rich delight
Although you are not there.
But though kind Time may many joys renew,
There is one greatest joy I shall not know
Again, because my heart for loss of You
Was broken, long ago.
Vera Brittain 1916 (Testament of Youth)