(Poem #980) The March of the Dead
The cruel war was over -- oh, the triumph was so sweet! We watched the troops returning, through our tears; There was triumph, triumph, triumph down the scarlet glittering street, And you scarce could hear the music for the cheers. And you scarce could see the house-tops for the flags that flew between; The bells were pealing madly to the sky; And everyone was shouting for the Soldiers of the Queen, And the glory of an age was passing by. And then there came a shadow, swift and sudden, dark and drear; The bells were silent, not an echo stirred. The flags were drooping sullenly, the men forgot to cheer; We waited, and we never spoke a word. The sky grew darker, darker, till from out the gloomy rack There came a voice that checked the heart with dread: "Tear down, tear down your bunting now, and hang up sable black; They are coming -- it's the Army of the Dead." They were coming, they were coming, gaunt and ghastly, sad and slow; They were coming, all the crimson wrecks of pride; With faces seared, and cheeks red smeared, and haunting eyes of woe, And clotted holes the khaki couldn't hide. Oh, the clammy brow of anguish! the livid, foam-flecked lips! The reeling ranks of ruin swept along! The limb that trailed, the hand that failed, the bloody finger tips! And oh, the dreary rhythm of their song! "They left us on the veldt-side, but we felt we couldn't stop On this, our England's crowning festal day; We're the men of Magersfontein, we're the men of Spion Kop, Colenso -- we're the men who had to pay. We're the men who paid the blood-price. Shall the grave be all our gain? You owe us. Long and heavy is the score. Then cheer us for our glory now, and cheer us for our pain, And cheer us as ye never cheered before." The folks were white and stricken, and each tongue seemed weighted with lead; Each heart was clutched in hollow hand of ice; And every eye was staring at the horror of the dead, The pity of the men who paid the price. They were come, were come to mock us, in the first flush of our peace; Through writhing lips their teeth were all agleam; They were coming in their thousands -- oh, would they never cease! I closed my eyes, and then -- it was a dream. There was triumph, triumph, triumph down the scarlet gleaming street; The town was mad; a man was like a boy. A thousand flags were flaming where the sky and city meet; A thousand bells were thundering the joy. There was music, mirth and sunshine; but some eyes shone with regret; And while we stun with cheers our homing braves, O God, in Thy great mercy, let us nevermore forget The graves they left behind, the bitter graves.
Like many children, I memorized In Flanders' Fields and, as today's
paper tells, it has become perhaps the best-known poem in Canada,
and THE poem for Remembrance Day. I realized early, though, that
this isn't a poem about remembrance. It's a poem that glorifies and
encourages war. Think of the line----
"Take up our quarrel with the foe.
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch. Be yours to hold it high."
Service, ( who, like McCrae, served in World War One, was writing about
the BoerWar, a war that should have had nothing to do with Canada.
I had memorized 'The March of the Dead' because my father so often read
it to me. On the evening after we had gone to the railway station to
see him off to the navy, I read it again. Then I read McRae's 'In
Fletcher's Fields'. That's when I caught the line 'Take up our quarrel with
What quarrel? The murder of an Austrian archduke? Who cared? In any
case, Germany had nothing to do with it.
"Oh God, in they great mercy let us nevermore forget
The graves they left behind, the bitter graves."
Remembrance day is important not to glorify war, but to remind us
to think before we create another march of the dead. (I wonder if the
clergy leading the prayers will remember that today.)
There's nothing in section A except for a story that Richard Oland
had a mistress 0-0-0-h, can we get more detail and pictures on that?
The editorial is a standard one for November 11. And it's a "take up
our quarrel with the foe one." As for its line that war has made us
free, we are actually a good deal less free than we were. If freedom
is what our soldiers fought for, then we have disgraced ourselves
with a domestic spy agency that taps our computers and phones, and
makes lists of dangerous environmentalists, lists that are handed out
to major polluters.
Norbert has a column on changes the political parties have to make.
But his changes have nothing to do with principles or values or
human needs. They're just tips on how to win an election.
He also has nothing on educating the public to what we need. This
just treats politics like a sort of fashion show.
The commentary page leads with another piece of propaganda from a
Brian Cormier's column is about nothing coherent.
Alec Bruce advises New Brunswick to be more open to immigrants.
I haven't noticed that much open racism in New Brunswick. Certainly,
NB is way ahead of Montreal and Toronto that respect. I've lived most
of my life surrounded by immigrants - Syrians, Italians, Jews, Chinese,
Blacks, Muslims, Japanese, Iranis.... If anything, I learned a lot
from them. But I have a warning for Mr. Bruce.
He expresses pride in his ancestry of Scots-Irish-English. I have
traced my family back to 1600. They were pure Scots, English, and
Then I got a DNA test. I'm 71% Irish - which raises the mortal danger
some were Catholic. And, though my Decaries of 1600 lived in
France, they were of Spanish descent. Decarie comes from the Spanish
Descary. And I have trace elements of west Asia - perhaps Mongol
There is nothing in Canada&World except the lead story that the NB
Liberals are planning to get rid of many of the agencies that keep it
honest-like the Auditor-General.
To find out what is going on in Canada, a better source is Al Jazeera.
Below is a story the Irving press has ignored. It's important to be
aware of it because the CBC, almost destroyed by Harper, is the only
independent news source we have. (So I can understand why the
Irving press doesn't care.)
I'm not as confident as the writer is that the Liberals will save it.
They don't have a good track record on this.
There's some talk in the U.S. press of American aid to foreign
countries. Unfortunately, most of that talk says nothing worth
Though we are never told this, the greater part of U.S. foreign aid
goes to rich countries - and it goes in the form of weapons. The
biggest recipient is Israel. This serves two purposes. It makes
military powers out of countries who are useful to the U.S. for
military reasons. It also provides lush contracts for the arms
industry bosses who pay off the politicians.
Commonly, U.S.foreign aid for poor countries requires that it be spent
on buying - say, medicine - from American companies. And, though
buying in tremendous bulk, the poor country has to pay the full retail
price as at your local drug store.
And that doesn't even come close to the rip-off record of the drug
industry. Just recently, an American drug company raised the price of
a life-saving drug from a few dollars a dose by over 1,000 percent.
This is a drug dating back over a hundred years, so the development
cost has long been paid off. This is for a drug some people need to
take daily in order to stay alive. Most private medical insurers are
refusing to pay for this one. So people die.
And this isn't the only example. Just wait until the Trans-Pacific
deal is accepted with its extension of the drug patent period to
almost double it. That will kill not only people. It will also kill
medicare by making it prohibitively expensive.
Funny how the Irving press missed this story. I guess they needed the
page for the real news - photos of smiling people holding up giant
Then there's a site, sent in by a reader, that sent a chill up my
spine. I won't comment on this because I don't know enough economics.
But it still scares me.
Robert Service was not always a good poet. In the 1920s, he penned -
Please, mother, don't stab father with the breadknife.
Remember, 'twas a gift when you were wed.
But if you must stab father with the breadknife,
Please, mother, use another for the bread.
And that reminds of another poet who was a maritimer, noted politician,
and a force in creating Canadian confederation. His name was Joseph
Howe. But I'll save that for a Saturday because it's (sort of) about
going to church.