2017-01-13

A War to end all Worlds

Last night I finally watched a BBC program on the War Poets that I recorded in June.  It focussed not just on their poetry, but also on the landscape and events that they inhabited around the Somme: battles they fought in, what poems they wrote afterwards, where they died.

And that reminded me of this, which I think sprang from a previous time when I had been listening to Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds in close proximity to reading another account of the first World War.  It's an easy juxtaposition, Martian fighting machines against barbed wire and artillery, but I should (and do) feel a little uncomfortable about it.  I am welding together bloody history and SciFi fantasy after all.

My defence for this latter point is threefold:

  1. This was written with the intent of using the fantasy war as a mechanism to highlight the horror of the real war...
  2. Wells himself was certainly critiquing the empire building and conquest of his time...
  3. You don't get SciFi authors in front of War Crimes Tribunals*
(*Although if any ever do, you can bet the charge sheet with be spectacular.)







A War to end all Worlds


When the whistles were blowin'
and there was me
there was me and Smiggy
and the two Johns

Johnny C and Johnny F and
nothing for it
but to go over the top.
We could not see

no tripods from where we were
but we knew alright
they were out there somewhere
lumbering in

with beams and gas and voices
like foghorns boomin'
and foghorns seemed to fit
with that black gas.

Smiggy bought it first, smashed
down by steel feet
that fell amongst us sudden
in the wire

we couldn't even stop
though Johnny C
would have headed back
exceptin' I swore.

Johnny F got caught out
in the open
when two tripods came up
and burned down

where he stood.  We cowered
in the water
in a half-collapsed trench
hearing steel grind

closer to us.  Lining up
on the angle
of the trench and we knew
the Martians had us

but a squad of gunners
with a Vickers gun
had set it up quiet-like
and cut them down.

It's a beautiful machine
the Vickers gun
if you like to kill things
and that was my war.



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