War & Poetry by Patrick Henry Reardon

War & Poetry

We all admit that war is a bad thing, but let us also concede that pitching a battle has the merit, from time to time, of bringing forth good poetry. Is there some communion between the two?

I don’t mean, of course, that the literary possibilities offered by the prospect of combat are normally computed in the casus belli. It is not as though Agamemnon and his friends, conferring on a recent affront from the Trojans, turned at length to a poet sitting over in the corner and asked, “Well, what about it, Homer? If we go lay siege to Troy, do you think you could do a thing or two with it?”

Nor is it reasonable to suppose that one of the commanders at Balaclava, stymied by the superior position of the Russians, suddenly blurted out, “Blimey, you know, it’s only half a league onward. Why don’t we just send the Thirteenth Hussars down there right in the face of their artillery? I say, Tennyson old thing, that should get the old literary juices flowing, what?”

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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