Crippled for life at seventeen,
His great eyes seems to question why:
with both legs smashed it might have been
Better in that grim trench to die
Than drag maimed years out helplessly.
A child – so wasted and so white,
He told a lie to get his way,
To march, a man with men, and fight
While other boys are still at play.
A gallant lie your heart will say.
So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread
To see the ‘dresser’ drawing near;
and winds the clothes about his head
That none may see his heart-sick fear.
His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.
But when the dreaded moment’s there
He’ll face us all, a soldier yet,
Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,
(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his Woodbine cigarette.
Eva Dobell (1876 – 1963)
Today is ANZAC Day. The 25th of April is one of Australia’s most important national days. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War at Gallipoli. It is a day of remembrance for those from both countries who have died in any wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
Often war related poetry is from a male perspective. This poem by Eva Dobell is from firsthand experience as a nurse.
Pluck = spirited and determined courage and was certainly needed by many war victims in dealing with horrific wounds at an early age.
S1 – many nurses and medics have thoughts of this nature when seeing the horrors of the condition of their patients. However, recovery even in such adverse conditions is still possible and an on-going life possible albeit a very different life.
S2 – the irony that the soldier falsified his age in order take part in the war and fight for country while others were more circumspect. He was very young and probably out for adventure and without understanding.
S3 – He is about to be dressed and again he shows determined courage in not showing any weakness to the nursing staff.
S4 – He faces his bared wounds as a soldier with unmoved air but the nurse sees the tell-tale suffering undergone in his eyes as he smokes a cigarette. Woodbine was a brand that was cheap and popular with the working class and with soldiers during both World Wars. Smoking was acceptable in the recovery wards.
And here is a link to previous ANZAC Day Posts including the Australian poet Judith Wright.