When the War Came: Movement 5: War

What is completely missing in this segment, really, is the fighting. I simply couldn’t find a way to describe it. I wrote a poem about the mud, but we decided not to use it as a song: just too grim. Thousands of troops died choking in it.

It was always muddy

on the farm –

We used to squelch and slip and laugh

across the farm.

The dog would wag his tail in glee

and send mud

flying over me..

But this mud gets inside your teeth

sticks in your hair

is everywhere..

It sucks your boots from off your feet

it sucks the heart right out of you

If you don’t watch

your step

across the boards

and fall

it will suck your life

and all..

 

Instead, I stuck to my original idea, and wrote about how it felt to them; just a glimpse of how they experienced it.. The music in this bit is brilliant. The whole tone becomes terrifying and desolate.

I used the refrain of Mum, partly because I was still thinking of them as children; and partly because I know from all the research I did that when people are in agony or dying it is their mother they call for.

MOVEMENT FOUR: WAR

 

NARRATOR

 

Then, at last, the real war started. – for the girls waiting in the dressing stations down the line.

…and the boys sweating in the trenches

 

SONG SEVEN: THE SILENCE

ALL GIRLS

 

We stood there in the silence

Beside the smooth white beds

While the guns roared in the distance

And the shells screamed overhead

 

We stood there in the silence

Beside the smooth white beds

While the guns roared in the distance

And the shells screamed overhead

 

We stood there in the silence

Beside the smooth white beds

While the guns roared in the distance

And the shells screamed overhead

 

We stood there in the silence

Beside the smooth white beds

While the guns roared in the distance

And the shells screamed overhead

 

 

And then they started coming

All the blood and pain and dying

All the muddy sheets and crying

And we couldn’t really help them

Very much..

 

Just comfort them with

Words and eyes and touch ..

 

Just comfort them with

Words and eyes and touch ..

 

It wasn’t what we thought that

It would be, Mum.

 

It wasn’t what we thought that it would be.

 

It wasn’t what we thought that

It would be, Mum.

 

It wasn’t what we thought that it would be.

 

NARRATOR

 

It wasn’t what we thought that it would be, either. Mud and smoke and running; bullets stinging past you in the din …I never shot my rifle in the end. I was too scared to do anything but run, blind.

 

SONG EIGHT: BILLY’S GONE

 

ALL BOYS

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, mum.

 

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, mum.

 

And I can’t find Fred…

 

 

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, mum.

 

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, mum.

 

And I can’t find Fred…

 

 

And Dot and Phoebe

How do we know

Where they are,

Mum?

Where they are, Mum..

 

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, Mum.

And I can’t find Fred…

 

 

And Dot and Phoebe

How do we know

Where they are,

Mum?

Where they are,

Mum?

 

 

I can’t see anyone..

I can’t see anything..

 

Mum..

Mum..

Mum..

 

NARRATOR

 

And on it went for months and months and then years and years…

The first Christmas, we had a football match with the Jerries across the trenches.. We sang carols, gave each other presents.. For a bit, everything felt all right.

But after that, just cold and dirty and lonely and missing friends. And homesick. Not scared, really, except for moments in the fighting     . Just lasting till the next cigarette, and wishing for home. The worse thing was still the mud. We hated the mud more than anything.

 

SONG EIGHT : THERE’S A LONG, LONG TRAIL A’WINDING: (Stoddard King and Alonzo Elliott: 1914)

 

BOYS AND GIRLS

 

There’s a long, long trail a-winding

into the land of my dreams,

where the nightingales are singing

and a white moon beams:

 

There’s a long, long night of waiting

until my dreams all come true;

till the day when I’ll be going down

that long , long trail with you.

 

There’s a long, long trail a-winding

into the land of my dreams,

where the nightingales are singing

and a white moon beams:

 

There’s a long, long night of waiting

until my dreams all come true;

till the day when I’ll be going down

that long , long trail with you.

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “When the War Came: Movement 5: War

    1. Have you read it from the beginning? Dot and Phoebe are the sisters of Billy and Fred who become nurses. In the last bit, you are told that Dot made it back home, but Phoebe was killed; as were several nurses. The Narrator is revealed as being Joe – the only one of the boys who came home. xx

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s