November 11th, 2005


Poet's Corner: Armistice Day special edition (part one)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie,
     In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
     In Flanders fields.

John McRae (1872–1918)


Poet's Corner: Armistice Day special edition (part two)

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori

Wilfred Owen (1893–1918)


Poet's Corner: Armistice Day special edition (part three)

The Silent Slain

We too, we too, descending once again
The hills of our own land, we too have heard
Far off -- Ah, que ce cor a longue haleine --
The horn of Roland in the passages of Spain,
the first, the second blast, the failing third,
And with the third turned back and climbed once more
The steep road southward, and heard faint the sound
Of swords, of horses, the disastrous war,
And crossed the dark defile at last, and found
At Roncevaux upon the darkening plain
The dead against the dead and on the silent ground
The silent slain --

Archibald MacLeish (1892–1982)


Poet's Corner: Armistice Day special edition (part four)

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

When I was a young man I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty Outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over

Then in 1915 me country said, "Son,
It's time you stopped rambling, there's work to be done"
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
When the ship pulled away from the quay
And amidst all the tears, flag waving and cheers
We sailed off for Gallipoli

And how well I remember that terrible day
When our blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they call Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter

Johnny Turk he was ready, he'd primed himself well
He rained us with bullets, and he showered us with shells
And in five minutes flat he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us back home to Australia

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
When we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

And those that were left, well, we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
While around me the corpses piled higher

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
And when I awoke in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead
Never knew there was worse things than dying

So no more I'll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
To hump tent and pegs a man needs both legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they gathered the wounded, the crippled, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla

And when the ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where me legs used to be
And thanked Christ there was no one there waiting for me
To grieve, and to mourn, and to pity

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
When they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared
Then they turned all their faces away

So now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
I see my old comrades how proudly they march
Renewing old dreams of past glory

And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff and sore
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, "What are they marching for?"
And I ask meself the same question

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda,
And the old men still answer the call
But year after year the numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by the Billabong
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me

Eric Bogle (b. 1944)

count, ten, 10-A

Ten random things: Reader Request Month, day 72

Ten stops on the Chiltern Line:

  1. Seer Green & Jordans
  2. Bicester North
  3. Widney Manor
  4. Small Heath
  5. London Marylebone
  6. Acocks Green
  7. Hatton
  8. High Wycombe
  9. South Ruislip
  10. Leamington Spa

The Chiltern Line is the railway line that runs between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill, stopping along the way in the Buckinghamshire town of High Wycombe, which town canadia_bit wanted to see mentioned in a list.

  • Current Music
    Bourgeois Tagg - I Don't Mind at All
dark and stormy, reading

A very unique post

I was listening to Morning Edition this morning, and I heard Steve Inskeep read a letter a voice mail from an irate listener who was outraged—outraged, I say!—that some NPR reporter had described something as "very unique," because "unique" means one of a kind and that adding an intensifier to it is just plain wrong and that the person who had said it was a grade A moron who must have been graduated from Bovine University. Or something like that.

(Correction: It wasn;t Steve Inskeep reading an e-mail; it was a voice mail, wWhich can be heard here, about three minutes in. It's sort of fun to hear; the gentleman making the complaint sounds exactly like you would expect the kind of self-satisfied, cleverer-than-thou nerd who would be inspired to leave a voice mail about something so trivial to sound.)

Anyway, that brought to mind a conversation I had with Lori the other day, when I said that some infinities are smaller than others. She sort of looked at me funny and asked if this was one of those half the distance things again. (One of the many reasons I love Lori: I mentioned the "half the distance thing" six months ago.) I explained the concept to her by asking her to consider the set of positive integers, and then the set of all positive even integers. Both are infinite sets, I said, but the latter is by definition half the size of the the former. She thought about that for a moment and pronounced it "weird." Which it is.

Getting back to subject at hand, it seems to me that if we can have multiple infinities of various sizes, then we can certainly have things that are more unique than other unique things. It just depends on the context. There's a guy with whom I work whose name is Dave. His is a unique name within our store, but not within the company as a whole; there's another Dave in our Leesburg store, and probably dozens of others elsewhere. But then there's Ayana, who could very well be the only person so named in the entire company. So her name is more unique than Dave's, just like the infinity of prime numbers is smaller than the infinity of numbers evenly divisible by three.

So mote it be. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that you can use an intensifier with the word "unique." If anyone calls you on it, just tell 'em I said it was OK.
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    Buzzcocks - Why Can't I Touch It