Passing Bells

"What passing bells for those who die as cattle?" - Wilfred Owen

By Sue Mackrell, 2007

Sunset on Beacon Hill | Neil Fortey, 11/7/2007
Sunset on Beacon Hill
Neil Fortey, 11/7/2007

Farm boys, they were
Used to the death rituals
Of slaughter,
The pride of a quick clean kill,
Could eviscerate a pig with skill,
Carcases split, and spread
With speed,
Animals bred for meat
For survival, sustenance,
No wastage.

But nothing prepared them for
The savage disembowelling
Of men, of boys,
A slow, cruel death
Tortured on wires,
Twitching in agony,
Left to die in fetid mud.

Not for them the reverence of passing bells,
A death knell, tolling a requiem of
Nine slow, meditative bell beats
And the single strokes, one for each year of a life
Lived slow, following the turning of the year,

And there was never a chair by the hearth of
The Bull, theirs by right of age,
Where they would pass the time of day
And remark on cattle prices in Grantham market
And how the fat stock are coming on.

This page was added on 19/09/2007.

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