In this week of Remembrance I thought I would show you my work commissioned for an exhibition responding to the theme of 'The First Casualty of War is Truth'. This was shown as part of a group exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery earlier in the year.
I visited the art installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper at the Tower of London just as the ceramic poppies were being dismantled amongst a field of mud. Upon entering the Tower Hill underground station I noticed small booklets of ‘War Poems on the Underground 1914-1918’, that were freely available in the station. Reading the booklet later I came across a poem called ‘Lost in France’ by Ernest Rhys.
I approached the theme of ‘The First Casualty of War is the Truth’ in an abstract way as the ‘truth’ is what people hold to be true in their lives, their characteristics, way of living, beliefs, thoughts etc. and war brings all these to a standstill. Surviving the war some of these could be regained, others lost forever, particularly for those who didn’t return. ‘Lost in France’ struck a chord with my thoughts; these were the truths of the man and now they were no more.
No matter how many times you read the poem the last line always stops you in your tracks, brings you to a standstill.
‘Lost in France’ is reprinted by kind permission of Stephen Rhys.
Lost in France
He had the ploughman's strength
in the grasp of his hand;
he could see a crow
three miles away,
and the trout beneath the stone.
He could hear the green oats growing,
and the south-west wind making rain.
He could hear the wheel upon the hill
when it left the level road.
He could make a gate and dig a pit
and plough as straight as stone can fall.
And he is dead.