The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

November 11, 2011 at 7:59 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s Remembrance Day in Canada (Veterans’ Day in the US). I went to the Remembrance Day assemblies at both my kids schools, and left in grim dismay.

My son attends elementary school (Grade 1-5), and overall the theme was peace. The kids made pictures of what peace meant to them. They performed a few peace skis, and asnag “Last night I had the Strangest Dream” and “Bridgeo ver Troubled Water.” A recording of John Lennon’s “Imagine” played over a part of the ceremong. They ended with a candlelight parade over “Amazing Grace (a tune I’ll admit a certain weakness for). Yes, yes, they read John McRae’s dreadful ode to war “In Flanders Fields” – OK the first part is OK, but “Take up the quarrel with the foe…”  Come on.

The thing that’s missing amidst all the we shall not forget, is what they were remembering. Now, it’s true that little children scare easily and its important to us age-approarpiate examples, but it all seemed a bit mysterious.

The middle school version was a bit more disturbing. It still included McRae’s poem, and the Last Post, but in addition to the peace poems and skits, there was a short video clip over a song called “Soldiers Cry”  by Edmonton singer/songwriter Roland Majeau.

Ponder these lyrics for a moment.

And the soldier cries Oh Canada
If it must be so, Ill die for thee
And the soldier cries Oh Canada
Ill die to keep you free

Uh, huh. In reality, soliders die not for “their” country, but to preserve the empires of the existing social order.

And then there’s this part:

Far away we had seen a great danger
And yet theres a danger much greater within
The noise we make as we constantly bicker
Would hush not a whisper if we listen to him

Quebec? Democracy? Well well.

What is promoted as a commemoration of the sacrifice made by soliders is actually a celebration of their sacrifice.

As usual, I’ll turn to the war poetry of Wilfred Owen.  Here is his beautiful poem, The Parable of the Old Man and the Young.

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns, A Ram.
Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

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1 Comment

  1. Anthem for the Doomed youth « Notes from Underground said,

    […] when a teacher had us read his poem “Dulce et Decorum est, ” and have posted his poems elsewhere on this blog.  On the weekend, I was reading something about the Republicans’ plans to block […]

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