Friday, June 28, 2013

World War I Anniversary

Ninety-nine years ago today two gunshots were fired that arguably precipitated the Great War, and the slaughter of over fifteen million, women, and children.  On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and his wife Sophie, with two close-range shots from his .380 FN Model 1910 pistol.  The gun, pictured below, was designed by John Browning, and mass produced in Belgium. 

This year is the anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, which will be played at Strathmore on November 14.  In it, Britten uses the poetry of Wilfred Owen, one of the more touching of which reads:
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
      Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
      Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
      The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
We should all take time to remember the fallen in that horrible conflict and, to ask ourselves – as Bob Dylan did, “how many times must the cannon balls fly / Before they’re forever banned?”

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