Tag Archives: Circle


Words and music by David Harley: all rights reserved


This is the preface Wilfred Owen drafted for a collection of war poems intended for publication in 1919.

“This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.

Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War.

Above all I am not concerned with Poetry.

My subject is War, and the pity of War.

The Poetry is in the pity.

Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.

(If I thought the letter of this book would last, I might have used proper names; but if the spirit of it survives – survives Prussia – my ambition and those names will have achieved fresher fields than Flanders…)”

I quote it here because every year it seems to me that we give too much credence to

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

I wrote this song out of disrespect. Not disrespecting those who suffer and die in battle or as a less direct result of warfare, whether or not the world called them heroes; not disrespecting those who lived on, suffering injury or the loss of loved one; but I have no respect at all for those whose ‘respect’ is founded on seeking political and commercial advantage. When I added this note in 2015, that cynical capitalization on tragedy seems, if anything, even more in evidence than it was in the 1980s.

Sleep well old man, and don’t look down from some heavenly aerie
To see the edifice we’ve built on your philosophy
The sacrificial fires below bear the devil’s mark
But it was hands a lot like yours that struck the first spark

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