Thursday, April 1, 2021

rum, agony, complete carnage, noise and death

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Table Talk (© 2021). Digital montage.


Anonymous (a retired, 79-year-old British man, who, at age eighteen, while serving in France during World War I, had survived crippling battlefield wounds), quoted in Ronald Blythe, The View in Winter: Reflections on Old Age. UK: Penguin Books, 1980, pp. 135-136—

[While serving in the trenches] we reached a line the Germans had just vacated and on the next morning, after being made to drink a lot of rum, I went over the top for the first time. Everybody has written about it and nobody can describe it. Not really. The legs and arms of the dead stretched out, the ripped bellies of the horses steaming and stinking. And the dead faces of mates looking up at you out of the filth. Filth. Men made into filth before your very eyes. “He’s finished,” you’d say to yourself, and in a way you were glad he was! Because there was this useless agony because you’d got to go. How I prayed then! “Over the top!” it was, and there you were, running and falling. After the first time I fell asleep in a trench filling with water and was nearly drowned. We were on the Somme. It was solid carnage, noise and death. There was so much death then that it doesn’t matter to me now. Or should I say, it doesn’t worry me now. Now that I’m getting on for eighty, and when there’s not a morning when I don’t thank God for it. Day come, day go.