Thursday, 19 March 2009

Ants, Austria 1914

A version of the following poem was written some years ago after visiting an exhibition by the Austrian World War I artist Albin Egger-Lienz; a man who became so unpopular in his own country because of his anti-war paintings such as The Nameless that he was forced to go into exile in Italy, the land of the WWI enemy. The poem is now rewritten and improved.

Ants, Austria 1914

Cutting summer grass
Egger-Lienz peasants
with long curved blades of
steel flashing fresh
in the summertime sun
releasing the grass
clover and wild-flower smells
and the dark dank smells of earth
when one swished point
grazes the hidden nest
of ants -
and leaves
its scar upon the ground.

Some stop work -
see them running
crazily around.

The rest
swish on -
bend the knee
drop the shoulder.

gw 2009


  1. It goes without saying that poetry is the sound of the poem, not just the word on the page but this one is particularly enjoyable when read outloud.

  2. Who did the running though, the ants, or the men?

  3. jinksy, 1914 is of course the clue.
    "Some stop work" - the early cannon-fodder recruits - and the rest of them will do in later years in 1915 and so on, but for the time being they "swish on" although they will "bend the knee" to the ruling Kaiser. Of course, the ants are a suitable metaphor for showing the resulting excitement and chaos - as when an ants nest is disturbed. So the answer to your question is both.

    Thanks Dominic. I put all these poems on here in one mad rush. I haven't had time to check them yet. But this one at least must be ok! By the way, your infamous quote is now on my blog header!

  4. So it is. :)

    We'll have to watch out for the next newsworthy royal event!


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