Friday, May 8, 2015

Are there any happy war poems?

A friend who has been reading my blog asked a few weeks ago, "Aren't there any happy war poems?  They're all just so….depressing."  So I've searched for a poem that might be considered "happy," and I've thought about the question a lot.  For now, I've provisionally reached the conclusion that a Happy War Poem would most likely be grotesque or offensive.  I find it hard to imagine how a poem can be "upbeat" about war.* 

However, war poetry is often described as inspiring or uplifting (Studdert Kennedy's "Lighten Our Darkness" and Colwyn Philipps' "Release" come to mind), and black humor is frequently used to satirize war or to cope with the unimaginable (Rickword's "Trench Poets" is an example). 

The anonymous poem "Faith"** makes yet a different point -- sometimes, no matter how dire the circumstances, we can choose hope.  In the midst of evil and suffering, we can affirm beauty and goodness.

Serbian children

I heard the cannon’s monotone
A mile or two away;
But in the shell-torn town I saw
Two little boys at play.

From what was yesterday a home
I heard the cannons booming;
But in the garden I could see
A bed of pansies blooming.

Along the weary, dreary road,
Forspent and dull I trod;
But in the sky of spring I saw
The countenance of God.

*If anyone can think of a happy war poem or has another response to the question, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 
**I found the poem in YANKS A.E.F. Verse (1919), a book I picked up at a second-hand bookstore, and I can find no other record of its publication or its author.   

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