4/5/09

... and let slip the dogs of war.

It was just before dawn on August 14th, though it could well have been any other day on the calendar, and a group of men huddled together in a trench. The exact location of this conflict among men wasn’t important, it could have been anywhere.

They, young and old, nervously fondled their weapons, anxious for the coming battle. Groups of them knelt to pray, calling upon their god to see them to safety. Those who had no god to which to pray thought one last time about their families, their friends, or their fortunes.

There were those who spent the last few minutes arming themselves by filling their hearts with hate; a hate that would carry the day; that would utterly annihilate not only their enemies but the last vestiges of humanity left within themselves.

For some, it was to be their first experience of combat, real and bloody and horrific. For others, it was merely another battle among many. It would be the last for multitudes of them.

At the command to advance, each of these men sung out at the top of his voice a call that was meant to inspire heroism and brotherhood, but also to wipe away the fears of the moment and fling them at the men they now were bent on killing:

The cries of havoc would all be unique to the men and their times but the results were always the same. Upon these words, blood would be spilt.

2 comments:

100swallows said...

I had just read this in Caesar last night: “...there is a certain eagerness of spirit and an innate keenness in everyone which is inflamed by desire for battle. Generals ought to encourage this, not repress it; nor was it for nothing that the practice began in antiquity of giving the signal on both sides and everyone's raising a war-cry; this was believed both to frighten the enemy and to stimulate one's own men.” Caesar, The Civil War, III. 92. He thought Pompey made a mistake by ordering his men to stand still and wait for Caesar's charge at Pharsalus.

Your post also made me think of Galdos' description of the Battle of Trafalgar. Spaniards blaspheme constantly when they are angry or surprised or exhilarated. Galdos said in battle God's name is shouted endlessly: some of the cries are these blasphemies, others are curses on the enemy, still others are the pitiful prayers of the wounded and dying asking for help or forgiveness.

cyurkanin said...

Thanks, swallows, for adding that. I also understand that among French Candians it's pretty normal to do the same thing, without a second thought as to what they're saying.