Saturday, January 21, 2006

Lost In the Ground -- Part 1

The words of the World War I poet, Wilfred Owen (1883-1918), have been haunting me for days. In memory of the miners at Sago and with hope yet remaining for the missing Aracoma miners, here is Owen's poem, "Miners":

There was a whispering in my hearth,
A sigh of the coal,
Grown wistful of a former earth
It might recall.

I listened for a tale of leaves
And smothered ferns,
Frond-forests, and the low sly lives
Before the fawns.

My fire might show steam-phantoms simmer
From Time's old cauldron,
Before the birds made nests in summer,
Or men had children.

But the coals were murmuring of their mine,
And moans down there
Of boys that slept wry sleep, and men
Writhing for air.

I saw white bones in the cinder-shard,
Bones without number.
For many hearts with coal are charred,
And few remember...

...Comforted years will sit soft-chaired,
In rooms of amber,
The years will stretch their hands, well-cheered
By our life's ember;

The centuries will burn rich loads
With which we groaned,
Whose warmth shall lull their dreaming lids,
While songs are crooned;
But they will not dream of us poor lads
Lost in the ground.
* * *

(Above, the poem is shortened by one verse, indicated by the dots, and it still stands on its own. But for those who are intrerested, here are the omitted lines:

I thought of all that worked dark pits
Of war, and died
Digging the rock where Death reputes
Peace lies indeed:
Owen wrote "Miners" after a coal mine disaster that happened while he was between tours of duty in Europe. He was killed in battle a few days before the Armistice.)

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