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Lamont Palmer Male, 52, United States (11/24/2013 5:59:00 AM)

" Boy-Soldier" by Michael Longley


The spear-point pierces his tender neck.
His armour clatters as he hits the ground.
Blood soaks his hair, bonny as the Graces',
Braids held in place by gold and silver bands.
Think of a smallholder who rears a sapling
In a beauty spot a burn burbles through
(You can hear its music close to your home)
Milky blossoms quivering in the breeze.
A spring blizzard blows in from nowhere
And uproots it, laying its branches out.
Thus Euphorbus, the son of Pantheus,
A boy-soldier – the London Scottish, say,
The Inniskillings, the Duke of Wellington's –
Was killed and despoiled by Menelaus.

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  • Jim Hogg (11/24/2013 11:32:00 AM) Post reply | Read 3 replies Stage

    Lamont, hope you don't mind me quoting the letter that inspired Longley to write this. A tender recollection. Longley works hard to break through the armour this life soon coats us in, to strike our compassion a telling blow... a sonnet worth reciting out loud.

    Tom McAlindon's letter, from Two Brothers Two Wars

    " We had a young volunteer here called Bobbie Kernaghan. He said he was seventeen but looked about fifteen to me. He was just out and so keen to get at the Germans, they had killed his favourite uncle. He was from Balfour Street in Belfast and said it's a small world, a neighbour of his was an Annie O'Hagan from the Mointies. Do you know her?I straightened his pack and checked his rifle (everything we have and wear is plastered with mud) before we went up and over on the 9th. We had hardly gone ten yards when he got it in the chest. He looked like a schoolboy asleep when they brought him in and laid him down. He lay covered over in the bottom of the trench for a few days. Every time I passed him I thought of when I was seventeen and of the nine years I've had since then. You get very callous here after a while, you simply have to, but this lad's death got through all my callousness. The Divisional Commander inspected us this morning and congratulated us on our 'great work at Ovillers'. Great! "

    • Tom McAlindon served in the Royal Irish Rifles

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    • Lamont Palmer (11/24/2013 1:15:00 PM) Post reply Stage

      Interesting and tragic story, Jim. I can see why that moved Longley to pen the poem. I enjoy Longley, as well as Mahon; solid writers and two of my favorite. Also Harry Clifton. -LP

    • Sherrie Kolb Cassel (11/24/2013 11:56:00 AM) Post reply Stage

      Jim, minus the word " Lamont" - your commentary on this poem is sheer poetry in and of itself, in particular your third sentence.


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