When I imagine war, I often think about my initial response to Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage--the innocence lost, mass confusion, the thunder of cannons... with the intervening screams and cries of wounded and dying men. The march goes ever onward and the characters are changed forever. We are all changed by reading about war:
- Rupert Brooke's The Soldier
- Walt Whitman's Ashes of Soldiers
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
In The Wound-Dresser, Walt Whitman writes:
"Thus in silence in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad..."
So, on this Veteran's Day, let's pause in mid-stream (putting aside whatever you're reading for a few minutes to remember the soldiers in life and literature). Where did you first learn of war? Was it through literature, personal episode, or the stories you've heard from a friend (or family member)? What does Veterans Day mean to you? How does the literature of war affect you?
If you listen closely (and read deeply), you may yet seem to feel the reverberation of cannon-and-rifle shot; you may smell blood, sweat and the smoke from ammunition... You may seem to see it all come-to-life as you read.