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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Memories of Mesopotamia


View at the top of the Tak-i-Girrieh pass on road from Mesopotamia to Persia
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 2343) 

The Great War was the first world war, a war that took many far from their homes and sent them to places distant and unfamiliar.  In two short poems, J. Griffyth Fairfax, a British soldier born in Australia, educated at Oxford, befriended by Ezra Pound, and serving with the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, captures scenes from the forgotten front in the Middle East.   

© IWM (Art.IWM PST 10782)

Noon

The clouds are gathered and the wind blows,
wet with tears
The river is ruffled grey,
And swept in a curve like a sinister steel blade
Tapering slimly away.
In the hand of Destiny this sword severs our years,
Sunders the light and shade.
            —Madhij

Dusk

A long lean cloud, like a greyhound,
Chases a fading sun;
The plain turns black, and the wave turns gold,
Then dark, and the day is done,
And the bats swing out in circles,
And the stars wake, one by one.
Fallujah ca. 1914 Caravanserai
            —Falluja.

Still today, clouds gather, winds blow, darkness falls – and the battle for oil, land, and power rages on. 

Fairfax’s poems were published in Mesopotamia: Sonnets and Lyrics at Home and Abroad, 1914-1919 and dedicated to Brigadier-General E. Dickson and Captain R.S. Aitchison: “These verses are affectionately inscribed in memory of some peculiar and many pleasurable adventures shared while serving with the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force 1917-1919.”

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