Monday, 6 April 2015

E is for Ehrenburg

'Scanning the Century' edited by Peter Forbes is one of those very chunky anthologies, that I bought in a fit of enthusiasm but have not really browsed very much. The best thing about this challenge is that it has provoked some serious poetry book rooting, and in searching for poets to match the letters I have been coming across new discoveries. 
Ilya Ehrenburg was a journalist throughout WW1, the Spanish Civil War and WW11, but he is also considered one of the significant Russian war poets. I was drawn to this one because it is not about the soldier's graphic experience of battle but more subtle about the moral response to violence.

Retribution

She lay beside the bridge. The German troops had reckoned
To cheapen her by this. Instead, her nakedness
Was like an ancient statue's unadorned perfection,
Was like unspotted Nature's loveliness and grace.
We covered her and carried her. The bridge, unsteady,
Appeared to palpitate beneath our precious load.
Our soldiers halted there, in silence stood bare-headed,
Each transformed, acknowledging the debt he owed.
Then Justice headed westward. Winter was a blessing,
With hatred huddled mute, and snows a fiery ridge.
The fate of Germany that murky day was settled 
Because of one dead girl, beside a shaky bridge.


(Linking back to the A to Z Challenge)

3 comments:

  1. I've never read Ehrenberg, but I love anthologies. This is a sublime excerpt.

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  2. The image of the girl as "an ancient statues unadorned perfection" is so powerful. Like an angel amidst the hatred and pain of man in war. Beautifully moving.

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