Today’s authors reflect on Remembrance Day

By Kelly Jirsa

Field of poppies in the sunset
Poppy Field

During the First World War, 1914-1918, Allied troops received pocket broadsheet editions of local news and anthologies of literature, keeping them connected with home. In honour of this year’s Remembrance Day The Guardian have asked renowned living authors to choose poems and prose they would send to troops today.

The Guardian’s new anthology includes 18 selections of poems and prose from Authors: Ian McEwan, Hilary Mantel, Carol Ann Duffy, Margaret Atwood, Howard Jacobson, Blake Morrison, Michael Morpurgo, Philip Pullman, Antony Beevor and William Boyd.

Like Poppies, Rosemary is an ancient symbol of remembrance, having special significance for Australians and New Zealanders as it grows abundantly on the Gallipoli pensinsula. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit

William Boyd
from ‘A Summer Night’ by WH Auden (1933)

Out on the lawn I lie in bed,
Vega conspicuous overhead
In the windless nights of June,
As congregated leaves complete
Their day’s activity; my feet
Point to the rising moon.
Lucky, this point in time and space
Is chosen as my working-place,
Where the sexy airs of summer,
The bathing hours and the bare arms,
The leisured drives through a land of farms
Are good to a newcomer.
Equal with colleagues in a ring
I sit on each calm evening
Enchanted as the flowers
The opening light draws out of hiding
With all its gradual dove-like pleading,
Its logic and its powers:
That later we, though parted then,
May still recall these evenings when
Fear gave his watch no look;
The lion griefs loped from the shade
And on our knees their muzzles laid,
And Death put down his book.

Most of the selections are written post the First World War and are a haunting reflection of the time. The literature chosen rouses the troops, speaks of the loneliness and desolateness of their experience, and is ultimately a reminder of the incredible service provided by the troops at the time and now.


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