(Poem #455) The Coming War
"There will be a war in Europe, Thrones will be rent and overturned," ("Go and fetch a pail of water," said his wife). "Nations shall go down in slaughter, Ancient capitals be burned," ("Hurry up and split the kindlings," said his wife). "Cities wrapped in conflagration! Nation decimating nation! Chaos crashing through creation!" ("Go along and feed the chickens," said his wife). "And the war shall reach to Asia, And the Orient be rent," ("When you going to pay the grocer?" says his wife). "And the myrmidons of thunder Shake the trembling continent," ("Hurry up and beat them carpets," said his wife). "Million myriads invading, Rapine, rioting, and raiding, Conquest, carnage, cannonading!" ("Wish you'd come and stir this puddin'," said his wife). "Oh, it breaks my heart, this conflict Of the Slav and Celt and Dane," ("Bob has stubbed his rubber boots on," said his wife). "Oh, the draggled Russian banners! Oh, the chivalry of Spain!" ("We have got no more molasses," said his wife). "See the marshalled millions led on With no bloodless sod to tread on, Gog and Magog! Armageddon!" ("Hurry up and get a yeast cake," said his wife). "Oh, the grapple of the nations, It is coming, woe is me!" ("Did you know we're out of flour?" said his wife). "Oh, the many-centuried empires Overwhelmed in slaughter's sea!" ("Wish you'd go and put the cat out," said his wife). "Death and dreadful dissolution Wreak their awful execution, Carnage, anarchy, confusion!" ("Let me have two cents for needles," said his wife. "All my love goes out to Europe, And my heart is torn and sad," ("How can I keep house on nothing?" said his wife). "O, the carnival of carnage, O, the battle, malestrom mad!" ("Wish you'd battle for a living," said his wife). "Down in smoke and blood and thunder, While the stars look on in wonder, Must these empires all go under?" ("Where're we going to get our dinner?" said his wife).
Notes: Gog and Magog: the nations represented in the Apocalypse as the forces of Satan at Armageddon -- Chambers Today's poem is ample proof that there is still humour to be found in stereotypes. There is nothing new in the subject matter - the man with a rather bombastic opinion of world affairs, his wife who exhibits a complete disinterest in affairs of state, and strives in vain to make him pay some attention to the here and now, have been portrayed in countless comic sketches, of varying quality. What makes 'The Coming War' one of the good ones is Foss's wonderful feel for language - he captures the inflated tone of the husband's remarks beautifully (incidentally parodying a number of poems on the subject as well). Practically every line cries out to be quoted, and every one of them makes me smile. On the technical side, note the use of long words and punctuation to convey 'weight' - reading the poem aloud draws one naturally into a 'declamatory' style, with frequent pauses and exaggerated emphases (influenced heavily by the content, of course - as I have pointed out before, these 'formal' effects do not exist independently of the text, but merely reinforce it.) Biography: A poet, journalist, and humorist, Sam Walter Foss is best known for his inspirational poem, The House By the Side of the Road. Sam was born into a rural New England farm family June 19, 1858. When Sam was four years old his mother died, and young Sam had to mature quickly and do his share of chores. He graduated from Portsmouth (New Hampshire) High School, and obtained a bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1882. As owner and editor of the Lynn, Massachsetts Saturday Union newspaper, Mr. Foss produced a humor column once a week. He became skilled at cranking out his popular homespun verse and his poetry was soon being published across the country. In 1891 moved to Boston where he wrote first for the Yankee Blade and later the Boston Globe. Sam Foss was also a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor until his death in 1911. -- http://www.ipoet.com/ARCHIVE/ORIGINAL/Foss/Sam.html ['popular homespun verse' is a lovely summation of Foss's work. Didn't particularly care for 'House by the Side of the Road' myself, though - m.] - martin