Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembrance Sunday

'Back' by Wilfred Gibson

They ask me where I've been,
And what I've done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn't I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands...
Though I must bear the blame,
Because he bore my name.

Wilfred Gibson was born in Hexham in Northumberland in 1878 but moved to London as a young man and worked as a social worker in the East End for a while. Gibson was a friend of Rupert Brooke but unlike Brooke who is regarded as a master of idealism Gibson is regarded as something of a na├»ve poet, mainly due to the fact that his time at the front was very short.

The poem 'Back', written in 1915, has attracted some debate over the years, it was regarded as either the ramblings of somebody who is not prepared to accept responsibility for his actions or the work of somebody who was profoundly affected by what he did and what he saw others doing. In fact we now know that Gibson  did not serve overseas in the war, he was actually rejected four times from serving his country on medical grounds before finally being accepted as a driver in 1917, and his poem was written as a result of his contact with soldiers who had served in the first two years of 'the war to end all wars'.  If this had been written during the last thirty years it would be regarded as a classic example of PTSD manifesting itself.

We should never forget those who have served our country in times of conflict and who either never returned or returned scarred and damaged by the experience. We must also never forget those who were the loved ones of those who served or those who helped others either out of love or in the case of Gibson out of the belief that it was a moral obligation.


Span Ows said...

Yes, the poem is a good one: back but a different person damaged or blanking out what he had seen/done etc., very moving in it's own way.

Paul said...

It is very moving.

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