Weekly photo challenge: Signs

When the Australian government, among others, announced this week they’re sending troops off to Iraq to fight (if only in the skies for now), I thought Here we go again.  As I rode past this bin today, the sign “General Waste” reminded me of the futility of war.  It might seem an obscure connection, but when you see the page from my father’s anthology of war poetry compiled in about 1942, you’ll think what I thought.  First, the bin:

General Waste bin

Second, a poem entitled “General Waste”, originally written in World War One by Reverend Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, who volunteered as a British chaplain to the army on the western front.  He was also known as Woodbine Willie for the Woodbines he smoked and handed out to the wounded and dying.  But he had a threefold reputation, for he was also a great anti-war poet.

In Dad’s poetry book, I’ve often read “General Waste” and felt the hollowness of war.  Studdert Kennedy wrote it in about 1917, but his poems were recalled by soldiers fighting again in World War Two.  Dad has called it “General Waste”, though searches online suggest it was called simply “Waste”.  There are a few spelling errors in his script, so I’ve transcribed it:

Waste of muscle, waste of brain,
Waste of patience, waste of pain.
Waste of manhood, waste of health,
Waste of beauty, waste of wealth.
Waste of blood, waste of tears,
Waste of youth’s most precious years.
Waste of ways the saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, Waste of God.
War!

"Waste" by Rev. Studdert Kennedy, c1917

“Waste” by Rev. Studdert Kennedy, c1917 (my father’s script)

Thanks WordPress for this week’s photo challenge.

11 thoughts on “Weekly photo challenge: Signs

    • The British chaplain was the poet this time. My father liked it enough to copy it into his anthology. Writing poetry is just a coping mechanism after the event. It doesn’t stop countries from fighting with each other again, though. Pity.

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    • I, too, am the daughter and granddaughter of men who went to war, and who were both shellshocked and ruined for life. But at this very moment, even as I write, young men are killing each other over the right to be master. It’ll always be like this, but poetry and fiction relieve some of the tension. Thanks for commenting, Victoria!

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