Does Somerset recall how few in Britain could resist
Huge social pressure, saw war as sordid from the start?
The gullible and the obedient mindlessly rallied round
To vilify and ostracize those daring to hold different views.
Bigots lapped up the strident posters shouting “GO!”,
The streets of Khaki uniforms, the drilling in the parks,
And any man not seen in military colours was verbally
Abused for cowardice by women with white feathers.
It is not always easy to resist the urge to follow suit,
Condemning those, eager to hand out condemnation,
Spurred by the dark side of their loss, and desperate
For tawdry glamour, to cloak the brutal maw of war.
Only a minority was out of sympathy with sweeping
Hysteria, a wide-spread wave of hate against all things
Of German origin, even pianos, Beethoven re-assigned
To being Belgian, Händel of course already British.
Somerset, too, was not immune to histrionic outbursts,
Outrage reported locally at special treatment rumoured
For German officers held prisoner at Sandhill Park,
The West Somerset Free Press an honourable exception.
It calmly countered wild-eyed reports about a German count,
Whose house near Croydon Hill was raided by policemen,
When he had left ahead of war, where they found nothing
To prove attempted sabotage or spying allegations.
While both sides accuse each other of bayonetting babies,
More thoughtful minds lack the enthusiasm of the mob
For peddling stories of atrocities and images of wanton
Destructiveness, always committed by barbaric foreigners.
After Diana’s death, how can we still congratulate ourselves
On our tolerance and tight control of feelings as a nation,
Believing that the panics of hate-filled, headless chickens,
Hysteria and histrionics, belong alone to foreign minds?
Disclaimer: The sequence of poems articulates purely personal views, which remain the sole responsibility of their author. They are not shared or endorsed by the Somerset Heritage Service. Wilf Deckner (Taunton, August 2013 – July 2014).