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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Anthem for Doomed Youth

64. – 624.) Anthem for Doomed Youth edited by Lyn Macdonald -In my last post I listed four series of mysteries I have read where each sleuth is a veteran of World War I whose post-war life remains deeply affected by their service in the war.

In the midst of the dreadful carnage of that war moving poetry was written by the young men who fought. Anthem for Doomed Youth is an anthology of the war poetry starting with the optimistic poems of men on their way to war, continuing with the experiences of battle and ending with the thoughts of those who had survived the conflict. Their eloquence resonates across the decades. 

Rupert Brooke’s poem The Soldier is one of the best remembered:

     If I should die, think only this of me:
         That there’s some corner of a   
         foreign field
    That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
  A dust whom England bore, shaped,
                                     made aware,
               Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
            A body of England’s, breathing English air,
               Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

            And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
               A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
                  Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England
            Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
               And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
                  In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

The last stanza of The Machine-Gun by John Hobson evokes the feeling upon the battlefield:

            Here do I lie,
                        Hidden by grass and flowers,
            With my machine-gun,
           Ghost of modern war.
           The sun floats high,
            The moon through deep blue hours,
I watch with my machine-gun
At Death’s grim door.

Wilfred Owen was one of the poet soldiers who addressed the horror of the war. In Dulce et Decorum Est he talked about a gas attack. In the last verse he speaks about a soldier wounded by the gas and states there is no glory in dying for your country:

            If in some smothering  
           dreams you too could pace
            Behind the wagon we flung
            him in,
            And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
            His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
            If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
            Came gurgling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
            Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
            Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
            My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
            To children ardent for some desperate glory,
            The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
            Pro patria mori.
For Canadians the poem In Flanders Fields by John McRae is our national poem of remembrance. Every child in Canada for over 90 years has read the poem. Most of us memorized it at school. On November 11, Remembrance Day, it is recited in every community across Canada:

            In Flanders fields the poppies blow
            Between the crosses, row on row
               That mark our place, and in the sky
               The larks, still bravely singing, fly
            Scarce heard amid the guns below.

            We are the Dead, Short days ago
            We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
               Loved and were loved, and now we lie
                  In Flanders fields. 

            Take up the quarrel with the foe:
            To you from failing hands we throw
               The torch; be yours to hold it high.
               If ye break faith with us who die
            We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
                  In Flanders fields.

Of the poets almost half died during the war. Considering the brilliance of their poetry it is certain the world lost many great writers during World War I. 

It is a book of great imagery and powerful emotions. A reader is prompted to reflect on life and death and sacrifice and courage and waste.


  1. Bill - These are truly fine poems, and it sounds like a book rich in depth, too. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. The poems stir every emotion. Almost 100 years later they speak vividly to me.