This comes from a bunch of things. Elizabeth Goudge sent me to Rupert Brooke (and wow – I’d never seen that sonnet before. What a wallop it has!) which of course made me think of the end of his life, which got me curious enough to look up his American contemporary (born just 3 years later) Christopher Morley. I’m sure the war must have affected Morley somehow, but you can’t see it in a brief biography, and it just seemed so odd to be so apparently untouched by an event that ravaged half the world. Add to that Ken Burns’ documentary on the Roosevelts, which seemed to have a lot of uncanny modern echoes (great show – it’s the first time I can remember when everyone at work is talking about a TV documentary) and this percolated through.

The Unlearned Lessons of 1914-1818

what was it like when the storm unfurled
for those whose raft lolled in calmer waters?
Across the ocean, rip currents swirled
swamping and drowning the sons and daughters
of cousins and uncles left behind
by those who fled to a newer world.

What was it like in ’17,
when the currents threatened the other side,
when the winds of war blew cutting and keen
calling a new tithe to sail a tide
flowing back to wash the wounded land
with wrack-strewn waters, incarnadine?

And what are we like as we doze, lulled to sleep
by the news of atrocities far away
denying the tides that rise and seep
and undermine the lands we say
(we echoing fools!) will keep us safe
….meanwhile, the waters are growing deep.