Im in search of an ironic poem with a similar tone to that of the novel Catch 22. If you are aware of a poem like this please reply to my post thanks!
How is the tone similar to Catch 22? Is this a poem about the Second World War? Unfortunately, irony was the mainresponse of writers to WWII. Obvious candidates- poems about air warfare- are:
The Death of the Ball-Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell
The Fury of Aerial Bombardment by Richard Eberhart
When a Beau goes In by Gavin Ewart.
I think the first is closest in tone to parts of Catch 22, and there is the same theme of the gunner's death.
When a Beau goes in
Into the drink
It makes you think,
Because, you see, they always sink;
But nobody says "Poor lad!"
Or goes about looking sad;
Because, you see, it's war,
It's the unalterable law.
Although it's perfectly certain
The pilot's gone for a Burton
And the observer too,
It's nothing to do with you;
And if they both should go
To a land where falls no rain nor hail nor driven snow--
Here, there, or anywhere,
Do you suppose THEY care?
You shouldn't cry
Or say a prayer or sigh.
In the cold sea, in the dark
It isn't a lark
But it isn't Original Sin--
It's just a Beau going in.
(What's a Burton?)
Gone for a burton is [was?] British [RAF?] slang for dead; it derives from gone out for a [very good] kind of beer.
Burton on Trent is a centre of the brewing industry. The Bass beer museum is there. EEK, just looked at its web site and they've changed the name to the Coors Visitors Centre.
Thank you- im wondering though- i belive i will use When a Beau goes in, but i am not sure why he refers the the pilot as a beau and some other sections of the poem.. would any of you be willing to explain the poem to me? I get almost all of it but i do not understand the relevance of the term beau (probably obvious.. im not experienced in this genre)
Coors? In England? That's just sick!
" Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man. "
Can't go wrong with Siegfried Sassoon for irony.
Does it Matter?
DOES it matter?—losing your legs?...
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs. 5
Does it matter?—losing your sight?...
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light. 10
Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?...
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they’ll know you’ve fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit.
8. The Effect
‘The effect of our bombardment was terrific.
One man told me he had never seen so many dead before.’
‘HE’D never seen so many dead before.’
They sprawled in yellow daylight while he swore
And gasped and lugged his everlasting load
Of bombs along what once had been a road.
‘How peaceful are the dead.’ 5
Who put that silly gag in some one’s head?
‘He’d never seen so many dead before.’
The lilting words danced up and down his brain,
While corpses jumped and capered in the rain.
No, no; he wouldn’t count them any more... 10
The dead have done with pain:
They’ve choked; they can’t come back to life again.
When Dick was killed last week he looked like that,
Flapping along the fire-step like a fish,
After the blazing crump had knocked him flat... 15
‘How many dead? As many as ever you wish.
Don’t count ’em; they’re too many.
Who’ll buy my nice fresh corpses, two a penny?’
12. The General
‘GOOD-MORNING; good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack 5
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
. . . .
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.
11. Base Details
IF I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel, 5
Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,’
I’d say—‘I used to know his father well;
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die—in bed.
The business about the beau in the poem Hugh posted is that the poem was written from the point of view of a young lady who, like many, had to come to terms with dancing with a young airman one day and discovering he had died the next. With the high death rate among aircrew it could happened several times to the same girl. They had to keep going and often felt it their duty to carry on partying and dancing as if nothing had happened, to keep up the morale of the other airmen in their 'set' .A beau was simply 1940s slang for a date, usually a regular date, but in a fairly lighthearted relationship, or one in the early stages . Going steady would have been the next stage, though I'm not sure they called it that, then getting engaged.
The poem was written by Gavin Ewart (1916-95)
Post Edited (11-09-04 04:06)
A Beau was a Beaufighter. A very versatile twin engined aircraft used as a night-fighter and- as here- a torpedo- bomber/fighter bomber.
The end of civilisation as I know it! A E Housman will be spinning in his grave!
I sit corrected RJAllen (but I still like my interpretation, even if it is wrong!)
I don't doubt that the word's extra meanings were in Ewart's mind when he wrote.
Thank you, kind sir (emerges from behind sofa where she's been hiding her embarassment , and from which she will doubtless retrieve it sooner or later).
While watching one of those "I love the ....." programmes my son suddenly asked How you hide behind a sofa from daleks. I made me realise just how much homes have changed in the past 40 years.