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The Pawns Count

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  • The Pawns Count

    The sun was bright on glinting arms, the spangled banners flew
    You stood with pride, the third in line of others just like you

    A hundred young and eager faces, lot as soldiers cast
    Impatient to depart and to defend their land at last

    The band it played, the cheers, they rose; your eyes with triumph shone
    My eyes were full of burning tears for you and you alone

    I begged you not to take this path and not to join their ranks
    You’d only be a thread in human carpets for the tanks

    You’d only be a piece of bait—someday, if you were lost,
    You’d only be a number on a paper of the cost

    ‘The devilled men that snared you in,’ I said, ‘don’t wish you well’
    ‘They promise you the world, but all their words are masks for hell’

    You smiled at my pleading and you answered my dismay:
    ‘This country’s safe for you, for me. Whose lives keep it that way?

    ‘The liberty you hold so dear by our blood is kept free
    And I am proud to add mine to that sacrificial sea

    ‘Let leaders play their games of chess and let their orders mount
    But we’re the ones that win the wars, ’cause it’s the pawns that count.’





    Firstly, this poem is hot off the press -- which means that it is riddled with errors and is not at all polished (or even coherent, I'm afraid). So I apologise for that.

    Secondly, I want to say thank you to all of the veterans who have fought for us - for all our countries, for all our freedoms. I must say that some of the views of the 'I' expressed in the poem were once my own, mainly because I was afraid for my sister who joined the army just a month ago. But since then I've realised what a sacrifice soldiers make for us to stay safe. Thank you!

    On a less serious note, I would love any suggestions for revision! As always.

  • #2
    NY Sonney I have read and enjoyed this. Hot off the press and a great read. I love the concept and great execution.

    Comment


    • N. Y. Sonnet
      N. Y. Sonnet commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, Parkinsonspoet!

  • #3
    NYS - bravo for a rousing and thought provoking salvo across the bow in the armed forces arena! I too have had both passionate and ambivalent feelings around this topic (and this after 20 years as a military spouse).

    S7L1W2 - I most often pronounce 'smiled' as one syllable, and did that on the first read through, but when I cam back adjusted my reading to keep the stressed syllable on track.

    This thought came to me out of the blue to play around with arrangement and perhaps split the stanzas into a call and answer formatting, like so:



    The sun was bright on glinting arms, the spangled banners flew
    You stood with pride, the third in line of others just like you

    ‘The devilled men that snared you in,’ I said, ‘don’t wish you well’
    ‘They promise you the world, but all their words are masks for hell’


    A hundred young and eager faces, lot as soldiers cast
    Impatient to depart and to defend their land at last

    You smiled at my pleading and you answered my dismay:
    ‘This country’s safe for you, for me. Whose lives keep it that way?


    The band it played, the cheers, they rose; your eyes with triumph shone
    My eyes were full of burning tears for you and you alone

    ‘The liberty you hold so dear by our blood is kept free
    And I am proud to add mine to that sacrificial sea


    I begged you not to take this path and not to join their ranks
    You’d only be a thread in human carpets for the tanks

    You’d only be a piece of bait—someday, if you were lost,
    You’d only be a number on a paper of the cost


    ‘Let leaders play their games of chess and let their orders mount
    But we’re the ones that win the wars, ’cause it’s the pawns that count.’


    I've no true idea if this is a poetically correct styling, but it provides contrast. Perhaps some variation of this is worth consideration?

    I think you've done a wonderful job putting your thoughts and feelings into a strong couplet pattern. It's good of you to honor your sister's choice. This is one type of matter that often tears families apart when members are on opposite sides of the issue.

    Also, please thank your sister for me - for her willingness to serve.

    Comment


    • N. Y. Sonnet
      N. Y. Sonnet commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for catching the 'smiled'! Like I said for Grant's comment, 'smiled' is automatically two syllables for me. This isn't the first time it's happened! Guess I need to use the dictionary more!

      Thanks also for your comments! I intended this more as a narrative piece, in which case I probably need to keep the current arrangement (in order to make the overall narrative arc clear, as well as make the differences between the two voices), but I do like the effect of how you rearranged it.

      So, thanks again! And I will tell my sister!

  • #4
    I love this as I also thank all our men and women who genuinely put their lives on the line for me. Thank you. This is wonderful NY.

    Comment


    • N. Y. Sonnet
      N. Y. Sonnet commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you, Alexandra!

  • #5
    Waaoo , What a beautiful rhyme i have just read. Beautiful work Sonnet, i appreciate the the way you have describe all the scene and grab the attention of the reader.. A good writer is one who cannot slips his reader's attention throughout the Rhyme, and yes you have done the same thing. Keep sharing this type of rhymes.
    Last edited by RhymeLovingWriter; 10-08-2020, 01:53 PM. Reason: Removed SPAM link.

    Comment


    • #6
      Cut the piece in half, and I see the middle "stammers" whereas the beginning and conclusion are pretty strong. What works and what I enjoyed were the longer lines executed with impetus. Some of the lines were absent of that thrum...
      this could definitely be polished and I think the bare ideas are there and that much of what 'drags' is the execution; the feeling-tone wavered toward the middle where the lines including "paper of the cost" were too generic for me, so the image would be better fleshed out n memorable with detail. Also that is your shortest line too. Excavate with this baby n see if any more inspiring changes come about...

      Comment


      • N. Y. Sonnet
        N. Y. Sonnet commented
        Editing a comment
        I'll definitely bear your word in mind as I tinker with this piece! Sometimes I think that poetry is a tiny bit of inspiration, which translates into writing, a lot of tinkering, and a whole bunch of scrapping.

    • #7
      Structurally accomplished, as always, N Y Sonnet, pretty much impeccable. And the narrative logic of it is very clear; I would respectfully dissent from Rhymist's suggestion about the contrastive splicing of stanzas.

      It was all lilting along when I hit 'smiled' in stanza 7 and stumbled. It was Rhymist's comment about making it two syllables, smil-ed, that set me right in terms of meter. Not sure I am happy with such a pre-modern pronunciation in a poem that evokes mechanised warfare ('tanks').

      It's an idealised, romanticised articulation of the motives of the common soldier - operatic in its sense of drama - yet still plausible. Such patriotic ardour plays a big part in recruitment. The female narrator is keenly aware of the mendacity involved in the recruiters' pitch; the volunteer shows that he is a convinced patriot, transcending such hard-sell tactics. Yet his lofty talk of willingly adding his blood to 'the sacrificial sea' is disturbing in its echoes of top-down warmongering rhetoric.

      The climactic thesis of the piece -
      that it's the pawns, the common soldiers, that win the wars - is a hopeful half truth (incidentally, one beloved of Adolf Hitler, among others). But the fact that good leadership, strategy, and logistics is pivotal in martial success is extraneous to this high-flown emotional vignette. The notion that it's all chess-playing by clueless elites is a plausible one for an ordinary soldier to hold, yet the poet here appears to believe that notion too, without any sense of poignant irony.

      For all the skill involved in constructing this, I am not sure it convinces at a deeper level, or opens up a fresh perspective. In the end, it is an affirmation of an old cliché - the brave, patriotic volunteer marching off to defend liberty in a spirit of self-sacrificial zeal - a conscious embrace of 'the sacrificial sea'. I think this kind of sentiment was pretty thoroughly deconstructed by Wilfred Owen in World War I. Perhaps we still have not learned those lessons?


      https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poe...et-decorum-est





      Comment


      • N. Y. Sonnet
        N. Y. Sonnet commented
        Editing a comment
        I really appreciate your comments; I hadn't considered the fact that it's cliche. I'm trying to think how I could change it to make it more thought-provoking. Perhaps I might change the whole title, and end with something from N to combat what the soldier said. Or would you suggest just ending the poem after 'all their words are masks for hell'?

        Or I might just leave it if it isn't worth a rewrite.

        I also hadn't read 'Dulce et decorum est' before - thank you so much for recommending it! I agree that there's nothing really left to be said about war in poetry... So I will probably end up scrapping this. This was more of a 'get my conflicting feelings out on paper' rather than a conscious effort to create good poetry; I guess it really shows!

        About 'smiled', for some reason any 1 syllable word that ends in 'L' I always read/write with two syllables (as well as the past of those words). I wonder why...

        Anyway, thanks a lot for your suggestions and your thoughts!
        Last edited by N. Y. Sonnet; 09-09-2017, 03:30 PM. Reason: A grammatical error.

    • #8
      Sent in Harm's Way
      to serve the flag,
      to serve the country
      while braggadocio
      struts the balcony
      and commands servility.
      Last edited by Johntee; 09-09-2017, 04:18 AM. Reason: Added "struts the balcony"

      Comment


      • N. Y. Sonnet
        N. Y. Sonnet commented
        Editing a comment
        I love this, Johntee! It is a brilliant piece on its own; I am honoured that you shared it as a response.

    • #9
      You may notice I never comment
      on technical aspects of verse since
      that is outside my ambit but the content
      of them and the comment stream frequently strikes home
      giving me a response to write on the fly.

      Your sister is to be commended but, as you yourself see, unfortunately the Forces
      are frequently abused by misuse in action and, worse, also as Vets,
      as the scandal of their medical care showed a few years ago
      coupled with the high number that show up homeless. The present Commander-
      in-Chief puts me in mind of an oratorical Mussolini strutting his balcony. Not everyone can be John McCaine.

      Comment


      • #10
        I have read and enjoyed this

        Comment


        • #11
          Nice rhymes that I just read. Good job Sonnet, I really appreciate the way you portray the whole scene and grab the reader's attention. A good writer is one who can't get the reader's attention through all the poetry, and yes, you do the same delta coupon
          Last edited by juliacarroll876; 10-09-2020, 06:23 AM.

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