The Poetry of War

June 9, 2008

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ, if you will) has a list of classic poetry about war, manliness, death - really good stuff. BUT it's not exactly our style.  Much of the content they selected is "old" and "boring" and, put simply, "does not rock."

Our picks for you after you click...


So, with a respectful tip of the hat to legacies of Whitman, Bukowski and Plath, here's our literary brigade of poems, call it Spike's First Inaugural Ode to War Poetry. 

Batty's Soliloquy - Blade Runner
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Time to die.

Defiant poetry from the soon-to-die Batty. Delivered in a rain-soaked cityscape of the dystopic future, after a filmfull of ass kicking and name taking.  You can't help but empathize with the nostalgic romanticism of Batty's dying opus. This is poetry that sticks with you, even if you dream of electric sheep.

Big Bottom - Spinal Tap
My love gun's loaded and she's in my sights
Big game is waiting there inside her tights, yeah
Big bottom, big bottom
Talk about mud flaps, my girl's got 'em
Big bottom drive me out of my mind
How could I leave this behind?
My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo
I'd like to sink her with my pink torpedo

The structure may be weak, the rhythm awful, the phrasing questionable. But war is hell men, and when you are in the trenches, sometimes this kind of message resonates. Earnest Hemingway knew it - he fought in three wars and married four women.  Here's to the dangerous curves you'll be coming home to, boys. The spoils of war are sweet, indeed.

Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow
The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying:
Valhalla, I am coming!
On we sweep with threshing oar,
Our only goal will be the western shore.

These guys were seriously out there, but who's gonna call them on it. Note to reader: When in war, or to paraphrase Wes Anderson "the shit, it helps to have a kick-ass song like this in your cabesa.

There comes a time when the pen simply isn't mightier than the sword, especially if the sword is a carbine assault rifle and your legacy is "The hammer of the gods."  

Freedom - Jurassic 5
[Soup] Yo, I'm the first candidate to hate/Had to beat on the drum to communicate/For what was to come to those who were hung/They would decapitate the tongue if you would mention the word (Freedom)/
[Chali 2na]
Got people screamin' free Mumia Jamal/But two out of three of ya'll will probably be at the mall/I'm heated wit ya'll, been defeated before/And complete an unsolved when the word freedom's involved/
Yo, my forefathers hung in trees to be free (Rest in peace)/Got rid of slavery but kept the penitentiary/And now freedom got a shotgun and shells wit cha name/
Release the hot ones and let freedom ring/

Poetry is most popular today in the form of rap, and the cleverest of these modern-day word wrangers, I think, is J5.  Above are some poignant lyrics not just about freedom and what it means to fight for it, but about sacrifice.  Sidenote:  If J5 are patriots, does that make Limp Bizkit terrorists?

And finally, because Boxing is war at it's simplest level

Untitled - Mohammed Ali

Mohammed Ali was almost as quick with his tongue as with other parts of his body and never missed the opportunity to get in his enemy's head. But this epic poem is so great it's almost impossible.

It's TWO words. You can't top that. Y'know why? Because you can't. It's impossible. You can't take Poetic License that far. The rhyme scheme isn't ABAB, it's not AABB, screw it with the ABCABC. This one is simply A, as in awesome. Or Ass-Kicking. Nuff said. The man was known as "The Greatest" and this is one reason why.

Bonus Track!