Poem of the Month, March 2022

The Poem of the Month for March 2022 is “Heroes,” by Ben Ray Redman.  Ben Ray Redman was a pilot in 79 Squadron in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I.  After the war he became a columnist for the Saturday Review of Literature.  He edited the works of Edwin Arlington Robinson and Voltaire.  “Heroes” was first published as a preface to his collection of flying stories about World War I, Down in Flames, published in 1930.  The poem describes the reactions of the men in the squadron as they tensely wait in their squadron mess (dining area) for a German night bombing raid to end.  It is written in the classic sonnet form.


Heroes

Ben Ray Redman


Dinner was ended when the warning came

(They’d bombed us every evening for a week): 

The night was scarred by futile jets of flame,

While searchlights madly played at hide and seek.

The Mess grew tense; then came the shrill high whine—

The roar!  Another, closer.  Then the third. 

“That got the ‘drome.”  The Major sipped his wine;

Muscles relaxed and stiffened figures stirred. 

But one sat rigid, fingers tightly clipped 

About a lightless cigarette, ash-white. 

That afternoon his lonely plane had dipped

Quite uninvited to a reckless fight

Where one faced five.  We prate of heroes when

The talk should run on circumstance, not men.


Notes:

The ‘drome: the squadron’s airfield, typically a flat, grass-covered area. 

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