Men of Verdun

Men of Verdun
This is the poem written by Laurence Binyon, about the Battle of Verdun (1619).

Laurence Binyon is forever connected to the poem For the fallen. This poem is recited on Rememberance Sunday. His legacy of poetry consists of more beautiful poems. This is the poem, that reminds us of the hellish Battle of Verdun (February 21 – December 18 1916).

At the bottom of Hill 304 (Malancourt-Haucourt)
At the bottom of Hill 304 (Malancourt-Haucourt).
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Battle of Verdun

Between February 21 and December 18 1916 (303 days), the Battle of Verdun was faught. This would be one of the longest battles during the First World War at the Western Front. The German and French army faught each other in the hills surrounding the French city Verdun-sur-Meuse.

The goal of the Germans was to profit from the Second Battle of Champagne in 1915 and to capture the Meuse Heights. The French would then be defeated during a swift offensive in the north-east part of France.

Although the plans were layed out months before, the offensive didn’t start until February 21, due to the bad weather. The start was quite succesful for the German army, as they captured Fort Douaumont after the first three days. The French artillery on the west bank of the river Meuse was meant to stop the advancing German troops, with success. It wasn’t until June, that the Germans could celebrate a new victory: the capture of Fort Vaux. The French troops were forced to give up territory and the battle front was just four kilometers from the center of Verdun. But, then the German military summit made a crucial mistake. They cut down the number of reinforcements, in favor of the battle at the Somme front. During August and December, the French troops recaptured many of the territory they were forced to give up earlier that year.

Casualties

There are only estimates about the number of casualties on both sides. It is assumed that the French army lost 377,231 men. The casualties on German side are estimated at a number of 337,000. Recent historical studies came up with different numbers, varying from 976,000 to 1,250,00.

Passchendaele

Earlier we published several poems about the Battle at Passchendaele. Together with this battle, it shows the total destruction of this Great War (the term to mark the First World War). Just like the Battle of Passchendaele, many have been inspired to write about this page in history, including Laurence Binyon.

Men of Verdun

Men of Verdun

There are five men in the moonlight
That by their shadows stand;
Three hobble humped on crutches,
And two lack each a hand.Frogs somewhere near the roadside
Chorus their chant absorbed:
But a hush breathes out of the dream-light
That far in heaven is orbed.

It is gentle as sleep falling
And wide as thought can span,
The ancient peace and wonder
That brims in the heart of man.

Beyond the hills it shines now
On no peace but the dead,
On reek of trenches thunder-shocked,
Tense fury of wills in wrestle locked,
A chaos of crumbled red.

— Laurence Binyon

Why do we write about the First World War?

Our readers, visitors and followers might ask the question, why we write about the First World War. There is a good reason for all of this. The ending of this Great War, was in 1918. That is one hundred year ago. This war wasn’t so great; it was a bloody war. Military summits on both sides believed a certain amount of men were necessary to win. Countless battles have been carried out, where men – humans – were nothing more than meat for the cannons.

There is also a good reason to write about this war. This war was one of the biggest wars in history and in the aftermath, this lead to another war: the Second World War. From there on, our world changed. New states arose and others fell. Colonies obtained independence and nowadays these borders are still a source of conflict in the world. The First World War is considered to be history, but war isn’t. Therefore we pay attention to this period in history. We do this, by sharing a legacy of poetry, that was inspired by this period.

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