|Charlotte Mew (1869 - 1928)|
The poem below was first issued in 1919. There is a kind of turning point in the verse that says "It is all young life: it must break some women's hearts to see". The strength of the last part is even surprising. The poem offers the real opportunity to read some lines that put our tranquil beliefs about memory, myths and commemoration under a hard test. Once more, here is the chance to return on this "uncomfortable" poet that committed suicide in 1928 by drinking disinfectant during a treatment for her neurasthenia. Her "thorny" literary legacy probably suffers from being a hinge really in between the Victorian age and the new "modern" era. Even after reading "The Cenotaph", we're almost forced to admit that there is no redemption and no regeneration in spring.
Not yet will those measureless fields be green again
Where only yesterday the wild sweet blood of wonderful youth was shed;
There is a grave whose earth must hold too long, too deep a stain,
Though for ever over it we may speak as proudly as we may tread.
But here, where the watchers by lonely hearths from the
thrust of an inward sword have more slowly bled,
We shall build the Cenotaph: Victory, winged, with
Peace, winged too, at the column's head.
And over the stairway, at the foot - oh! here, leave
desolate, passionate hands to spread
Violets, roses, and laurel with the small sweet twinkling country things
Speaking so wistfully of other Springs
From the little gardens of little places where son or
sweetheart was born and bred.
In splendid sleep, with a thousand brothers
To lovers - to mothers
Here, too, lies he:
Under the purple, the green, the red,
It is all young life: it must break some women's hearts to see
Such a brave, gay coverlet to such a bed!
Only, when all is done and said,
God is not mocked and neither are the dead.
For this will stand in our Market-place -
Who'll sell, who'll buy
(Will you or I
Lie each to each with the better grace)?
While looking into every busy whore's and huckster's face
As they drive their bargains, is the Face
Of God: and some young, piteous, murdered face.