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nUkiEmOLe poetRy of Others #18/ 13 fEb 2020 1915: The Trenches, by Conrad Aiken

nUkiEmOLe poetRy of Others #18/ 13 fEb 2020

1915: The Trenches, by Conrad Aiken


“Conrad Potter Aiken was an American novelist and poet, whose work includes poetry, short stories, novels, a play and an autobiography.

Early Years

Aiken was the son of wealthy, socially prominent New Englanders who had moved to Savannah, Georgia, where his father became a highly respected physician and surgeon. But then something happened for which, as Aiken later said, no one could ever find a reason. Without warning or apparent cause, his father became increasingly irascible, unpredictable, and violent. Then, early in the morning of February 27, 1901, he murdered his wife and shot himself. According to his own writings, Aiken (who was eleven years old) heard the gunshots and discovered the bodies. He was raised by his aunt in Massachusetts. Aiken was educated at private schools and at Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, then at Harvard University where he edited the Advocate with T.S. Eliot who became a lifelong friend and associate.


Aiken’s earliest poetry was written partly under the influence of a beloved teacher, the philosopher George Santayana This relation shaped Aiken as a poet who was deeply musical in his approach and, at the same time, philosophical in seeking answers to his own problems and the problems of the modern world.


Adult Years

Aiken was deeply influenced by symbolism, especially in his earlier works. In 1930 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his Selected Poems. Many of his writings had psychological themes. He wrote the widely anthologized short story Silent Snow, Secret Snow (1934). His collections of verse include Earth Triumphant (1911), The Charnel Rose (1918) and And In the Hanging Gardens (1933). His poem Music I Heard has been set to music by a number of composers, including Leonard Bernstein and Henry Cowell.


Aiken wrote or edited more than 51 books, the first of which was published in 1914, two years after his graduation from Harvard. His work includes novels, short stories (The Collected Short Stories appeared in 1961), criticism, autobiography, and, most important of all, poetry. He was awarded the National Medal for Literature, the Gold Medal for Poetry from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize, and the National Book Award. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, taught briefly at Harvard, and served as Consultant in Poetry for the Library of Congress from 1950 to 1952. He was also largely responsible for establishing Emily Dickinson’s reputation as a major American poet.


After 1960, when his work was rediscovered by readers and critics, a new view of Aiken emerged—one that emphasized his psychological problems, along with his continuing study of Sigmund Freud, Carl G. Jung, and other depth psychologists. Two of his five novels deal with depth psychology.


Conrad Aiken’s interest in Freud was reciprocated by the great psychoanalyst, who was equally interested in how Aiken used Freudian concepts in his fiction. Freud went so far as to call Aiken’s Great Circle one of his favorite novels. At one point Freud expressed interest in meeting Aiken face-to-face to discuss psychoanalysis. Aiken agreed and set off to Europe, but by chance on the boat over met Erich Fromm, a Freud disciple, who convinced Aiken that it would be a bad idea for the writer to have sessions with Freud. Because of this, the two never met.”


Biography of Conrad Potter Aiken: (5 August 1889 – 17 August 1973, Savannah, Georgia)


–note: he was also Poet Laureate, of u.s.a. 1950–1952 …


1915: The Trenches



All night long, it has seemed for many years,

We have heard the terrible sound of guns,

All night long we have lain and watched the calm stars.

We cannot sleep, though we are tired,

The sound of guns is in our ears,

We are growing old and grey,

We have forgotten many simple things.

Is this you? Is this I?

Will the word come to charge today?…

All night long, all night long,

We listen and cannot close our eyes,

We see the ring of violet flashes

Endlessly darting against the skies,

We feel the firm earth shake beneath us,

And all the world we have walked upon

Crumbles to nothing, crumbles to chaos,

Crumbles to incoherent dust;

Till it seems we can never walk again,

That it is foolish to have feet, foolish to be men,

Foolish to think, foolish to have such brains,

And useless to remember

The world we came from,

The world we never shall see again…

All night long we lie this way,

We cannot talk, I look to see what you are thinking,

And you, and you,–

We are all thinking, ‘Will it come to-day?’

Get your bayonets ready, then–

See that they are sharp and bright,

See that they have thirsty edges,

Remember that we are savage men,

Motherless men who have no past…

Nothing of beauty to call to mind,

No tenderness to stay our hands…

…We are tired, we have thought all this before,

We have seen it all and thought it all,

Our thumbs are calloused with feeling the bayonet’s edge,

We have known it all and felt it all

Till we can know no more.



All night long we lie

Stupidly watching the smoke puff over the sky,

Stupidly watching the interminable stars

Come out again, peaceful and cold and high,

Swim into the smoke again, or melt in a flare of red…

All night long, all night long,

Hearing the terrible battle of guns,

We think we shall soon be dead,

We sleep for a second, and wake again,

We dream we are filling pans and baking bread,

Or hoeing the witch-grass out of the wheat,

We dream we are turning lathes,

Or open our shops, in the early morning,

And look for a moment along the quiet street…

And we do not laugh, though it is strange

In a harrowing second of time

To traverse so many worlds, so many ages,

And come to this chaos again,

This vast symphonic dance of death,

This incoherent dust.




We are growing old, we are older than the stars:

You whom I knew a moment ago

Have walked through ages of silence since then,

Memory is forsaking me,

I no longer know

If we are one or two or the blades of grass…

All night long, lying together,

We think in caverns of dreadful sound,

We grope among falling boulders,

We are overtaken and crushed, we rise once more,

Performing, wearily,

The senseless things we have performed so often before.

Yesterday is coming again,

Yesterday and the day before,

And a million others, all alike, one by one,

Sulphurous clouds and a red sun,

Sulphurous clouds and a yellow moon,

And a cold drizzle of endless rain

Driving across them, wetting the barrels of guns,

Dripping, soaking, pattering, slipping,

Chilling our hands, numbing our feet,

Glistening on our chins.

And then, all over again, after grey ages,

Sulphurous clouds and a red sun,

Sulphurous clouds and a yellow moon…

I had my childhood once, now I have children,

A boy who is learning to read, a girl who is learning to sew,

And my wife has brown hair and blue eyes…

Our parapet is blown away,

Blown away by a gust of sound,

Dust is falling upon us, blood is dripping upon us,

We are standing somewhere between earth and stars,

Not knowing if we are alive or dead…

All night long it is so,

All night long we hear the guns, and do not know

If the word will come to charge to-day.




It will be like that other charge–

We will climb out and run

Yelling like madmen in the sun

Running stiffly on the scorched dust

Hardly hearing our voices

Running after the man who points with his hand

At a certain shattered tree,

Running through sheets of fire like idiots,

Sometimes falling, sometimes rising.

I will not remember, then,

How I walked by a hedge of wild roses,

And shook the dew off, with my sleeve,

I will not remember

The shape of my sweetheart’s mouth, but with other things

Ringing like anvils in my brain

I will run, I will die, I will forget.

I will hear nothing, and forget…

I will remember that we are savage men,

Motherless men who have no past,

Nothing of beauty to call to mind

No tenderness to stay our hands…




We are tired, we have thought all this before,

We have seen it all, and thought it all.

We have tried to forget, we have tried to change,

We have struggled to climb an invisible wall,

But if we should climb it, could we ever return?

We have known it all, and felt it all

Till we can know no more…

Let us climb out and end it, then,

Lest it become immortal.

Let us climb out and end it, then,

Just for the change…

This is the same night, still, and you, and I,

Struggling to keep our feet in a chaos of sound.

And the same puff of smoke

Passes, to leave the same stars in the sky.




Out there, in the moonlight,

How still in the grass they lie,

Those who panted beside us, or stumbled before us,

Those who yelled like madmen and ran at the sun,

Flinging their guns before them.

One of them stares all day at the sky

As if he had seen some strange thing there,

One of them tightly holds his gun

As if he dreaded a danger there,

One of them stoops above his friend,

By moon and sun we see him there.

One of them saw white cottage walls

With purple clematis flowers and leaves,

And heard through trees his waterfalls

And whistled under the eaves;

One of them walked on yellow sand

And watched a young girl gathering shells–

Once, a white wave caught her hand…

One of them heard how certain bells

Chimed in a valley, mellow and slow,

Just as he turned to go…




All night long, all night long,

We see them and do not remember them,

We hear the terrible sounds of guns,

We see the white rays darting and darting,

We are beaten down and crawl to our feet,

We wipe the dirt from mouths and eyes,

Dust-coloured animals creeping in dust,

Animals stupefied by sound;

We are beaten down, and some of us rise,

And some become a part of the ground,

But what do we care? We never knew them,

Or if we did it was long ago…

Night will end in a year or so,

We look at each other as if to say,

Across the void of time between us,

‘Will the word come to-day?’


written by Conrad Aiken


Selection from: Conrad Aiken: Vast symphonic dance of death, July 12, 2011 by Richard Rozoff

Bio-sketch (2-27-16)…

I started into believing that I would be able to show my data and my photogRapHics in 1996. By 1998 I was learning computers would gain ascendant methods thru technics of programming for a future connected to data and information. That was nuclear-Molecular finding(s) to share and my personal-Activism w first account specifics and engendering(s).

As cameras went 'digital-Tech' I fond that editing was also to follow in 2004. Then, in 2005 my first digital camera had replaced usage(s) of s.l.r. 35 mm's. I have no mercy nor pity for the thieves who have stolen my hard werk, as anxiety of what I allowed was mid-stReam--anyway! Those asshole-Pukes have cost me $1,000's on a fixed income and I remain single, sole-Survivor of two-Families w.o. offspring!

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