First off, I am of the school of thought that songwriting does count as poetry. Lyrics require a certain rhythm and resonance to be poems, just as those rhythms are put to melody for songs. Unless the lyrics are something like ‘can I get a referee’ or ‘work work work work work’, because seriously.
Anyway, I had been listening to the ‘The Bold Marauder’ by Richard and Mimi Farina for a while and found myself both intensely attracted and repulsed by the song. The melody is simple and the words glorify the brutalistic part of war, singing about bloodshed and slaughter, mostly in the context of the Crusades. It was written as an anti-war song to protest Vietnam, and very cleverly so, in my opinion. The song appeals to a human’s baser instincts of the competition and triumph of war, the same instincts that lets us enjoy first-person shooter games, but throws it in our faces in a blatant manner that makes us like it and then be horrified at ourselves for liking it. Reverse psychology, almost.
Now, I don’t know if I would call myself a pacifist. The term is a bit absolute for me, and I tend to not operate in absolutes. War is the last of last resorts and should never be undertaken while there is opportunity for peace and compromise. But sometimes, we find ourselves faced with opponents who will not be swayed, where the world is indeed painted in black and white with little to no grey. At those times, if we must take up helmet and sword to defend what is good and right in the world, then I can understand it.
Lines in the sand are just that, and a strong wind can blur those lines. It is a rare moment in history where absolutes are truth and people are made to descend into the hellscape that is war. Pieces like these remind us that war is not all songs and glory and triumph of good over evil. Those are stories we tell ourselves to help us sleep at night. It can make monsters of us, and not all of us know how to tame the beast.
I was debating between this and Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori’. Wilfred Owen fought in World War I and wrote the poem as a reaction of sorts to it, saying that war is hell and there is no glory in dying in the trench. I went with this, though.