Rending Verse

This evening we watched a documentary about William Owen, the First World War poet. Who was William Owen? According to the documentary he seems to have changed the course of war poetry, and poetry in general. That largely came about through his meeting and friendship with Siegfried Sassoon, a poet I read in the 1960’s.

Here is Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est bringing our eye-ear-nose-tongue-body-mind to join with his, in the trenches.

For those who know the Scripture of Great Wisdom (The Heart Sutra) the no eye, ear, nose etc. is pointing out no separate eye, ear etc.

Rent – ripped apart.

…and on the deepest level, there is that which cannot be rent.

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7 thoughts on “Rending Verse”

  1. Dear Reverend Mugo,

    I just wondered whether you knew the translation of Dulce et decorum est pro patria mor which I believe is It is sweet and becoming to die for one’s country, or:
    It is sweet and seemly to die for one’s country.


    Maybe if I had watched the TV programme then the above would have been explained.

    Lest we forget? Or just ignorant there of.

    Note the above link is not the one originally supplied by Galen.

  2. Happy New Year Reverend Mugo !

    Thank you for reminding me of one of the few poets I have read (found via “O” English in my teens). He was able, for me, to be able to put his experience into words that I could relate to. It is ironic that he was killed only a week before Armastice, ninety years ago. There are a few other poems that he wrote that are equally evocative.

    In gassho

  3. Dear Rev Mugo

    This is the 3rd time I’ve tried to sum up my feelings to this post. Umm. Best to just say it and not get too tied up in the detail I suppose.

    I find all the descriptions (prose or poetry) of that awful period too painful too sharp. I think few of us could say we know our original face well enough not to suffer if in such terrible conditions. Is it that we separate enough to both suffer and feel others suffering through our connection? I am certainly a long way from fearlessness. Man’s inhumanity… just awful. And not over yet.

  4. Distressing to think that the scene Owen portrays in his poem happened almost a century ago and, aside from minor technological and ideological differences (the Old Lie recast), repeats itself every day, as witnessed on the evening news.

  5. Well Jim you pipped me to the post (or in this case comment section) by just a small margin, by my calculations. Although my comment was attached to my recent posting and not to this one.

    And in answer to your comment… Yes, and…I ask you how, as a bodhisatva, do you view this world of tears? Is there not a movement towards Compassion, along with the distress and wow? No doubt there is anger and indignation and righteousness too, flying out of the ground. Love and Compassion have to win out though. By the way I’m not picking Jim out for special attention, it’s just that I wanted to make this point and this is the perfect place to make it. (and Jim is known to me.)

    Thanks for leaving your comment. Let there be more!

  6. “in this pure there is no eye, ear etc.”(The Heart Sutra);
    seeing it from the point of view “all is One ánd all is different”,
    then there is an eye ánd there is no eye.

  7. One of my students here in Japan is doing his degree in ‘Strategic Studies’ at Meiji University and just before Christmas he asked me to help him translate some ‘facsimile’ documents that he had bought in the shop at the Imperial War Museum (North) at Salford Quays.

    One of the documents was an Health Assessment Board Report from Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh dated February 1918 for a 2nd Lieutenant W. Owen from Oswestry, a member of the Manchester Regiment. It recommended a ‘return to light duties at Ripon’. It took me quite by surprise to realise who the paperwork was about.

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