Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red

Blood Swept Land And Seas Of Red

Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red

This extraordinary installation at The Tower of London was created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper. 888,246 ceramic poppies have progressively filled the Tower’s famous moat over the course of Summer and Autumn. Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the First World War. To the crowds who have flocked to the Tower, from all over the world, each poppy represents so much more; the lives lost on all sides of all the wars that have followed, whether combatant or not. Inspired by the installation and with excerpts from The Blood Swept Lands by Unknown Soldier; Beauty, Asleep and Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen, I have written this poem of remembrance, accompanied by photos from around the Tower and views of the installation from The Shard.

Through blood swept lands
And seas of red
I saw him stumbling.
Bent double with age,
The old soldier
Treads softly through
This field of mud
To place his marker.
His hanging face, lost
In some smothering dream
Of another field,
Where he once marched
Through sludge and filth,
Deaf to the shouts
Of those he left for dead
In a war that never
Should have been
Had lessons been learned.
His marker for the
Father he never met,
The friends he left behind,
The son who died too
Far from his fathers arms,
The grandsons who now
March through desert sands
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags.
Their mother cries
“Come home boys, come home”.
His tears are lost
In the falling rain.
Crowds watch on as
The lives long lost
Seep from the Tower Walls.
Hands reach in, again and again
To plant another fallen angel.
Here lie the flowers of our people
Filling the ancient moat
Each a boy who fell back
To fill some forgotten trench
With their aborted lives.
Regard this beauty,
So fair and elegant
That pleases and delights.
In these flowers we see hope.
All stand in strength to
Remember the glorious dead.
One hundred years since
That war to end all wars,
Yet thousands more have
Killed and died and bled
For naught but the ancient lie,
The struggle over territory
To seize a scrap of this land
That belongs to no one, and everyone.
In time when these blooms are gone
And verdant grass heals
The tortured,trampled land,
What will remain in the minds of man?
And later on will we hear
Of some canker that worked
Itself into the misted memories
Of those crimson flowers?
And laid vile, incurable sores
On the innocent minds of our children,
Ardent for some desperate glory.
Who knows, who hopes, who troubles?

25 comments on “Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red

  1. Stunning images Sarah….you caught some wonderful angles…..wish I was close enough to head down for a visit before the poppies are removed. The sheer numbers of poppies has really given me a sense of just quite how many died in the defence of our current freedoms….

    • So near, yet so far! Yes, the sheer mass of red is a stark realisation of how many died. Imagine, though, if there were poppies to represent all deaths on all sides, including civilian, from every war, every genocide, since WW1. The whole of London would be swathed in red. Thanks Seonaid!

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