Friday, March 21, 2003

The Effect
by Siegfried Sassoon

'The effect of our bombardment was terrific.
One man told me he had never seen so many dead before.'
- War Correspondent.

'He'd never seen so many dead before.'
They sprawled in yellow daylight while he swore
And gasped and lugged his everlasting load
Of bombs along what once had been a road.
'How peaceful are the dead.'
Who put that silly gag in some one's head?

'He'd never seen so many dead before.'
The lilting words danced up and down his brain,
While corpses jumped and capered in the rain.
No, no; he wouldn't count them any more...
The dead have done with pain:
They've choked; they can't come back to life again.

When Dick was killed last week he looked like that,
Flapping along the fire-step like a fish,
After the blazing crump had knocked him flat...
'How many dead? As many as ever you wish.
Don't count 'em; they're too many.
Who'll buy my nice fresh corpses, two a penny?'

Any passing is a sad one. I cannot think of many things more insensitive than, "The effect of our bombardment was terrific.
One man told me he had never seen so many dead before," except, perhaps, for the phrase, "It was a success: there were few casualties." One casualty is too many.

The vigil tonight was bittersweet. Bitter because each of us knew that while we gathered together, people could be dying. Sweet because the collective of candles seemed to lend an air of hope. Bitter because the tears came. Sweet because of the chorus of voices in song. Bitter because we heard the Charter of the United Nations read aloud and were reminded that sometimes it is as easy to be deaf to many voices as it is to one. Sweet because one child sat in front of the makeshift memorial and ensured that every candle stayed lit.

Bittersweet that such an outpouring of love and solidarity for fellow human beings was bought at this price.

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