Archive for the ‘Soldiers’ Category
We visited Gallipoli over the weekend. It was an amazing trip — incredibly beautiful, incredibly moving. It had rained heavily the night before we went to look at the battlefield. The sea was a variety of blues. The sky was ever-changing.
In Istanbul, the weather and the sky is extremely changeable. I think this has to do with its location on the bosphorous. You can literally see the clouds moving. Once, on a bus ride up the bosphorous it seemed that the bus was in a race with the dark rain clouds that were quickly advancing to the Black Sea. It was similar in Gallipoli, which is also located on a strait. The clouds moved and changed colour quickly — from threatening dark grey to cottony white through wich the sun shone. In Gallipoli, where the traces of the War are everywhere, even looking at the sky called back to the soldiers who fought here. In The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell talks about how important the sky was in the soldiers’ imagination.
To be in the trenches was to experience an unreal, unforgettable enclosure and constraint, as well as a sense of being unoriented and lost. One saw two things only: the walls of an unlocalised, undifferentiated earth and the sky above. … What a survivor of the Salient remembers fifty years later are the walls of dirt and ceiling of sky, and his eloquent optative cry rises as if he were still imprisoned there: “To be out of this present, ever-present , eternally present misery, this stinking world of sticky, trickly earth ceilinged by a strip of threatening sky.” As the only visible theater of variety, the sky becomes all-important. It was the sight of the sky, almost alone, that had the power to persuade a man that he was not already lost in a common grave.
Fussell quotes the diary of a soldier:
Was it Ruskin who said that the upper and more glorious half of Nature’s pageant goes unseen by the majority of people? … Well, the trenches have altered that. Shutting off the landscape, they compel us to observe the sky; and when it is a canopy of blue flecked with white clouds …, and when the earth below is a shell-sticken waste, one looks up with delight, recalling perhaps the days when, as a small boy, one lay on the garden lawn at home counting the clouds as they passed.