Peter Jackson’s documentary ‘They shall not Grow Old‘ is well worth a watch. I was sent this poem written by someone who has been inspired by Peter Jackson’s documentary and was immediately reminded of Paul Nash’s painting, The Mule Track. The painting hangs in the Imperial War Museum, London as part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Jackson has taken original black and white newsreels from World War I and using digital technology, transformed them into coloured film. Somehow, the original black and white footage let us disassociate ourselves from these events to some extent. Now in colour these scenes are even more compelling, but they are not for the faint hearted. This trailer gives you a flavour of Jackson’s genius as he takes us into the trenches of WWI https://youtu.be/EHYRfukHToc The full movie is only £11.99 and well worth it (in my opinion).
Paul Nash (1889-1946) and his brother both served in World War I and their paintings capture the horrors of the trenches. February 1916 saw the beginning of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war and this poem captures an essence of what it must have been like.
100 Years on from Paul Nash
The leaves rise, sucked upwards only to fall into loam.
A silent sigh as the clockwork rewinds.
On screen the image reawakens
Coloured and shaped as only the dead can be.
Silent no more.
It’s in the eyes
‘Smile for the camera, Boys.’
PUT OUT THAT LIGHT!
That shooting gallery false dawn
In the rain
In the mud
In the fog.
‘MASKS ON, BOYS.’
Always too late
As Christmas goes by and spring departs,
Dragging woods and birdsong into fleeting memory.
Leaving rich soil too poisonous to plough.
The Battle of Verdun started on 21st February 1916 and did not finish until December of that year. It started with a ten hour bombardment of the French town and over the next ten months a total of 980,000 men were killed or wounded.
All the battles of WWI have now faded from living memory, but thanks to the work of Peter Jackson the surviving films are more relevant to a modern young audience and clearly continue to inspire young poets.