WW2 poet Vernon Scannell dies

Discussion in 'Films, Music and All Things Artsy' started by Tom_of_Bedlam, Nov 17, 2007.

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  1. Much is made of the First World War poets at this time of year, but WW2 produced some very moving poems as well, some of the best of which were written by Vernon Scannell, who died today.

    Here's one of them, 'Walking Wounded':

    A mammoth morning moved grey flanks and groaned.
    In the rusty hedges pale rags of mist hung;
    The gruel of mud and leaves in the mauled lane
    Smelled sweet, like blood. Birds had died or flown,
    Their green and silent attics sprouting now
    With branches of leafed steel, hiding round eyes
    And ripe grenades ready to drop and burst.
    In the ditch at the crossroads the fallen rider lay
    Hugging his dead machine and did not stir
    At crunch of mortar, tantrum of a Bren,
    Answering to a Spandau's manic jabber.
    Then into sight the ambulances came,
    Stumbling and churning past the broken farm,
    The amputated signpost and smashed trees,
    Slow wagonloads of bandaged cries, square trucks
    That rolled on ominous wheels, vehicles
    Made mythopoeic by their mortal freight
    And crimson crosses on the dirty white.
    This grave procession passed, though, for a while,
    The grinding of their engines could be heard,
    A dark noise on the pallor of the morning,
    Dark as dried blood; and then it faded, died.
    The road was empty, but it seemed to wait -
    Like a stage that knows the cast is in the wings -
    Waiting for a different traffic to appear.
    The mist still hung in snags from dripping thorns;
    Absent-minded guns still sighed and thumped.
    And then they came, the walking wounded,
    straggling the road like convicts loosely chained,
    Dragging at ankles exhaustion and despair.
    Their heads were weighted down by last night's lead,
    And eyes still drank the dark. They trailed the night
    Along the morning road. Some limped on sticks;
    Others wore rough dressings, splints and slings;
    A few had turbanned heads, the dirty cloth
    Brown-badged with blood. A humble brotherhood,
    Not one was suffering from a lethal hurt,
    They were not magnified by noble wounds,
    There was no splendour in that company.
    And yet, remembering after eighteen years,
    In the heart's throat a sour sadness stirs;
    Imagination pauses and returns
    To see them walking still, but multiplied
    In thousands now. And when heroic corpses
    Turn slowly in their decorated sleep
    And every ambulance has disappeared
    The walking wounded still trudge down that lane
    And when recalled they must bear arms again.

    Apologies for any spelling errors. I couldn't find it anywhere on the internet so had to type it up.
  2. I'm fond of Scannell. As well as the war poetry he wrote good love poetry, and was particularly good on drunks and children (he was a big drinker and had lots of kids).

    I knew he served with distinction in ww2 but didn't know he got machine gunned and didn't know he deserted (twice).