Remembrance

For King, flag and country they took to the field
For Kaiser and Sultan they snatched up their guns
For Tsar and for Emperor they readied their cannon
For freedom and glory they pounded the drums
For France and for Belgium the Entente declared
No German or Austrian the Channel would sight
The Tsar of the Russias swore his Slavic brothers
Would be beholden no longer to the Habsburg Duke’s might
The Germans for their part defended the honour
Of their Austrian cousins whose son had been slain
Austria-Hungary readied its armies
For the death of an Archduke, now bloodshed would reign
Uncle Sam and his legions came late to the fray
The Italian Prime Minister switched sides at the last
The Ottoman Empire was wooed by the Germans
The Balkans rose up against their Austrian past
The fighting was bitter; the casualties many
Sixteen million lives were snuffed out in the war
Four Empires were shattered; the others were crippled
The balance of power was balanced no more
What did they fight for, those bravest of soldiers?
For what did they struggle through barbed wire and shells?
What reason could send seventy million men
To risk their lives and their futures for four years of Hell?
Some fought for freedom; against oppression and empire
Some fought for justice and a world free of fear
Some fought for their families, to safeguard their future
Some fought for the countries that they held so dear
Some fought out of shame if they didn’t contribute
Some fought because their governments told them they must
Perhaps the bravest of all, did not fight at all
But stood up for their principles in the face of disgust
They each were lied to, those valiant warriors
Each man and each woman who stood up and risked death
There was no free world at the end of the struggle
Victor and vanquished; neither tasted success
No worker in London or Paris or Rome
Gained freedom from toil or protection from harm
No peasant in Hungary or France or in Poland
Gained the land or the bread for which he had borne arms
The Revolution in Russia – so much hope at the outset
Quickly dissolved into killing and lies
And no Treaty could bring back the 3 million innocents
Lost in the genocide the Turkish denied
And lest we forget, the war settled nothing
Versailles was a stitch-up, the peace was a fake
Twenty years later the fighting restarted
And another 85 million went to their graves
The Middle East was carved up by imperial powers
Now we see the results of this spelled out in blood
100 years later we cannot escape it
The sins of the fathers are the deaths of the sons
So then, my friends, my brothers and sisters
My comrades in peace, though pray never in war
Let us remember, this dreary November
The dead then and since – but do not be fooled
War is not and is never a glorious thing
And freedom is rarely the prize at the peace
So when political leaders extoll conflict’s virtues
Just keep in your minds who fights for whose needs
And though sometimes a war can be grim but be just
And to sit and do nothing may not be the remedy
Always be wary when the battle-horns sound
And remember – who is the real enemy?
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