cummings’ anti-war poetry

Though not necessarily a favorite, cummings’ “147” somehow seemed appropriate on this fifth anniversary of our invasion of Iraq:

147

“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

I generally don’t like ANTI-war poems because i feel almost ALL poems, at least modern poems, are anti-war. But, if you were looking for anti-war poems, cummings would be a good place to look. Although he volunteered as an ambulance driver in France during WWI he was imprisoned by the French for seditious writing.

What makes cummings more effective than most anti-writers is his sense of humor, which often does little more than quote those in favor of war, exposing the inherent irony. In fact, I wonder if cummings writes for The Daily Show?

It’s hard not to see the absurdity of slogans when they’re strung together like this, though some might not immediately recognize the irony in the first line until they see “…and so forth oh.” aFter all, NO one ends a prayer with “AND SO FORTH” because it immediately reveals how clich├ęd such phrases are.

It is a little sobering when we realize that it’s the “heroic happy dead” who have been acclaiming America’s glorious name “by gorry by jingo by gee by gosh by gum” because “they did not think” but “died instead.”

If it weren’t for those like this politician who finished his speech with “a glass of water” the voice of liberty might well be MUTE.

2 thoughts on “cummings’ anti-war poetry

  1. Would that we humans were not so easily riled.

    And yet the reptile in us is not without value.

    Here it is Palm Sunday, and humbly the Redeemer rides.

    War is almost always a Catch 22.

    Put up the “Buffalo Bill’s defunct” poem.

  2. It was reading Wilfred Owen’s poems as a boy that introduced me to the idea that poetry could be more than limericks and/or doggerel. I treasure Cummings ‘my sweet old etcetera’ because it made me see that a poem could be poignant and witty at the same time.

What do you think?