Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Antwerp by Ford Madox Ford

Well, it seems I can't stay away from Ford right now. I had trouble starting Some Do Not... and No More Parades, having to read the first ten pages of each book several times before settling into the work.

Not so with A Man Could Stand Up. So while I return to Parade's End, I thought I would link to Ford's poem "Antwerp". For those reading along on Parade's End, you will recognize many of the book's sentiments in the poem. Here are a few excerpts:


An October like November;
August a hundred thousand hours,
And all September,
A hundred thousand, dragging sunlit days,
And half October like a thousand years …
And doom!
That then was Antwerp …
       In the name of God,
How could they do it?
Those souls that usually dived
Into the dirty caverns of mines;
Who usually hived
In whitened hovels; under ragged poplars;
Who dragged muddy shovels, over the grassy mud,
Lumbering to work over the greasy sods …
Those men there, with the appearance of clods
Were the bravest men that a usually listless priest of God
Ever shrived …
And it is not for us to make them an anthem.
If we found words there would come no wind that would fan them
To a tune that the trumpets might blow it,
Shrill through the heaven that’s ours or yet Allah’s,
Or the wide halls of any Valhallas.
We can make no such anthem. So that all that is ours
For inditing in sonnets, pantoums, elegiacs, or lays
Is this:
“In the name of God, how could they do it?”


With no especial legends of matchings or triumphs or duty,
Assuredly that is the way of it,
The way of beauty….
And that is the highest word you can find to say of it.
For you cannot praise it with words
Compounded of lyres and swords,
But the thought of the gloom and the rain
And the ugly coated figure, standing beside a drain,
Shall eat itself into your brain:
And you will say of all heroes, “They fought like the Belgians!”

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