Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Moment of Silence . . .

November 11th is Armistice day in France. The date that marked the end of World War One. . A good day on which to remember what should never have been and what should never be again. And to remember all involved who suffered, all those who, as Robert William Service wrote in his poem "The March of the Dead", paid the blood price . . . may they rest in peace.
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"We're the men who paid the blood-price. Shall the grave be all our gain?"
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Two photos taken last Friday in the German cemetery near Nantillois, northwest of Verdun, only one of many that dot that area.
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Near the battlefield of Belleau Wood, lies the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery with its 2289 white marble crosses. In the blinding sun of the late afternoon I couldn't help thinking that all these young men had gone to the light . . .
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The monument on the "Mort Homme" hill or"Dead Man", (I believe it already bore that name prior to the war) near Verdun, is rather grim when seen up close . . .
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The French words on the monument "Ils n'ont pas passé" mean "They did not pass". No, the Germans did not pass le Mort Homme in 1916 . But many on both sides passed on to whatever, if anything, may be after this life.
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29 comments:

Nevine said...

Wow, what humbling photos, Owen. I particularly like the third photo. I honor all who died fighting in any war, warranted or unwarranted. Service members dedicate their lives to their countries, and they are at times sent to fight in wars they do not condone. These photos are a beautiful tribute to the many lives lost in the service of country. Thank you for sharing them, Owen.

AmyR said...

Really striking photos Owen. I agree with Nevine, this is a wonderful tribute.

Steve said...

Amen.

joo said...

Beautiful post Owen, and related somehow to our Independece Day which we celebrate here in Poland today!

desi said...

Thank you Owen...i love history but get so busy that i sometimes forget to read more..that's why we have you for this reminders.
Today is a special day for the world yes. Thanx!!

:)

Sashindoubutsu said...

Beautiful photos. The pictures themselves tell a timeless story.

robert said...

Even though born 1974, being a German I feel as if I owe an apology.

TechnoBabe said...

The cemetery photos are beautiful. We take time today to remember and thank the military men and women who put their lives on the line for their countries.

French Fancy said...

Following on from Robert's comment I always feel sad for the young German - what a blot on their country which will never be forgotten.

Virginia said...

Yes a day to remember. I noticed that every village in the countryside of Paris has a monument the "les enfants" that had died in battle. Your images are superb.
V

louciao said...

Lest we Forget.

A fine tribute, beautifully illustrated in your photos.

louciao said...

PS. I particularly love the 2nd photo of the men on the front line (crosses), the troops lined up supporting them from behind (tombstones), the carpet of blood (rusty red leaves)beneath them all, the impossibility of retreat (dense forest).

An artist often intuitively captures an underlying meaning of a scene in choosing the elements of the composition.

I doff my beret to you.

BLOGitse said...

Peace!

pRiyA said...

like Nevine said, the photographs are humbling. one cannot look at these pictures without being moved.

jeff said...

Un moment de silence...
Total respect !
Cependant, je dois dire que ta photo de toutes ces croix avec cette lumière dégage quelque chose de magnifique !... Comme quoi...! ! !

Amitiés !
Jeff

cieldequimper said...

These places make me shiver. I don't know where my two German great-grandfathers and one French great-grandfather are buried, but they all died between 1915 and 1917. What a b***** waste WWI was. Thank God for Europe, however bad its ups and downs may be. Your photos are beautiful.

The Sagittarian said...

Stunning photos. You can feel the sombre air, great colours and ditto what Louciao said. So much for the War to end wars eh?

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Owen~ You couldn't have chosen a more meaningful day to visit these sites: November 11, Veterans' Day. I remember the white crosses. The grounds are still so beautifully maintained. It shows France's respect which speaks volumes. The sky above and behind the monument is so dramatic, fitting for the warrior saying, "They did not pass." And we're still deploying soldiers to other lands. Sigh.

jedaen said...

bonjour Owen, thankyou for the magnifique presentation.

I liked Jeff's comment and perhaps what is magnificent here is the light of liberation through suffering.

Peace be with you- great stuff Owen!

Peter said...

It's frightening to see these cemeteries, whether from WWI or WWII (... of course WWI is probably one of the most horrible wars ever); what stupidness can lead to. Lucky us who have been born later and thanks to all the veterans, who are not there any more.

jedaen said...

and I SALUTE YOUR JOURNAL!

Owen said...

Nevine, it is just such a terrible shame that after a few thousand years of history the human race is still racing along blindly and fighting, fighting, stupidly fighting. After the second world war it was supposedly finished in Europe, but just a few short years ago in Sarajevo and across the former Yugoslavia... more madness. And it goes on and on. I think we need more women leaders on this planet who might not be so quick to wage war. While I respect those who serve just causes, I abhor the notion of needing them, and having them at hand to be sacrificed at old grey mens' whims... in any case, from deep down... thank you...

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Amy, again, from deep down, my humble thanks...

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Steve, that's what I like about you... succinct, clear, and concise...

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Joo, in that case, happy Independence day to you and all your countryfolk... time for champagne I think !

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Hi Desi ! I'm happy then to be useful for something... Many thanks !

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Sashin..., many thanks for stopping in here, well, I'm not sure if "wonderful" is the right word for the story these pictures tell, but they do tell a story that makes one wonder, so in that sense, yes...

Owen said...

Robert, I think perhaps after all this time, and a coupld of generations later, the feeling of owing an apology could be placed in a shrine somewhere, and then slowly forgotten ? You did not wish for what happened before you were born. Nor I. Yet, as someone raised in America I feel like we Americans collectively owe an almighty huge apology to the native Americans to whom our ancestors did unspeakable injury. And I don't hear anyone saying "We're sorry" about all that. I wonder if any French people still feel any shame over the horrors that Napoleon unleashed across Europe ? And perhaps that is part of what caused the wrath of Germany to fall later so hard on France ? Retribution for earlier pain ? So much tragic history all around us, and the traces are still visible. I think we must hope that we can contribute in some small way to a more peaceful future. Could I shake your hand for that I would, and whisper, "It's ok. We are all guilty. And we can all try to make things better."

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TechnoB, indeed, let us remember, and never forget...

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French Fancy, yes, perhaps some blots will never be forgotten, but then what country is without blots ? Perhaps we can at least forgive the children and children's children of those who perpetrated terrible acts upon others, and comfort them in whatever small way we can ? There is too much hatred and perfectly vile and wilful violence still on this planet. It is time to let go of the hate, and to shut down the arms industry...

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Virginia, thank you, simply... I often stop to read the names on the monuments in villages when I pass them, it never fails to move me, and often one sees the same last name three or four times on such lists, several brothers at a time from some families were lost. Or cousins. Dreadful...

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Louciao, and I bow to your doffed beret, your vision of the underlying meaning is sad and apt... it is oh so sobering to walk in such places, and I far prefer that feeling than to be walking in a shopping mall... I know, I'm a strange kind of guy...
:-)
Thank you for being you and being there...

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BLOGitse... peace it is then... we can smoke the peace pipe if you like...

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Priya, If they have proved to be moving, then in some small way this is worthwhile... may peace be with you...

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Dear Jeff, merci mon ami... heureusement on n'a pas eu à vivre à cette époque, et finir cote à cote dans les tranchées pleines de chenilles, errrr, plutot des rats ... on est mieux ici avec un verre...

Owen said...

Ciel, thank you so much... Did you ever try to find out where they fought and died ? There must be a way to learn where they were buried, to allow a pilgrimage to be made ?

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Dear Saj, Didn't end much of anything did it, even ten million casualties later... is there any hope for us ? I really wonder...

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Margaret, it was dramatic... And I am always amazed at how impeccably kept the grounds of these cemeteries are... not a weed to be seen. When I was in the American cemetery at Romagne the other day, there was a crew of four men working, sweeping up leaves, cutting the grass (which didn't look like it needed to be cut) etc... Complete respect...

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Jedaen, thank you, may peace grow upon this planet...

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Peter,
Amazing how much traspired just in the past century, like Dickens said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". So, where do we go from here ? Is there hope ? I'm wondering...

Lydia said...

Your photography has such soul, and these shots do seem to have souls. I was touched and very moved by the beauty of the shots and the sensitivity of your commentary.

@eloh said...

Thank you for the photos and always for the beautiful poetry of Service, my favorite, as you know.

Roxana said...

the third picture is breathtaking.

Sar@h said...

"Ils n'ont pas passé."
… Ils ont trépassé ?

J'aime bien les photos en position impaire.

Virginia said...

Owen
I"m back. Actually when I left the comment today i didn't realize I had visited this wonderful blog before on this day. That is an amazing sculpture and you photographed it beautifully. I'm flattered that you find my Paris photos worth another look! Come back anytime and I'll be visiting here often as well.

"Comments, the icing on the blogcake"! I love that.:)
V