Poetry at the Post: November 11, 2015—Give Me Peace on Earth

November 11, 2015
In memory of all who have suffered and died in war~


Men jostle and climb to, meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear

Alvin Thomas Knost
Alvin Thomas Knost

This is a photo of my dad, Alvin (“Al”) Thomas Knost  sometime around 1972.

Al served in the Army Medical Corps during World War II. Three days after the D Day invasion, his unit was sent from England to Normandy Beach to pick up all the dead and wounded. They continued to follow the troops as they marched through France and into Germany where they encountered the survivors of the Holocaust.

After the war ended, dad returned to the states and resumed his life. He married, apprenticed to become a plumber and had three daughters. Dad died in 1985. While he was live he rarely spoke about his personal experiences in the war but the few times he did, he cried.

Give me love, give me peace on earth…no one says it better than George Harrison:

Poetry at the Post: Mad For Brittany At This Moment….


Marie de France, translated Judith P. Shoaf ©1991

The adventure in my next tale
The Bretons made into a lai
Called “Laustic,” I’ve heard them say, In Brittany; in French they call
The “laustic” a “rossignol”
And in good English, “nightingale.”

Near St. Malo there was a town
(Somewhere thereabouts) of great renown.

Marie de France, from an illuminated manuscript now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France: BnF, Arsenal Library, Ms. 3142 fol. 256.
Marie de France, from an illuminated manuscript now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France: BnF, Arsenal Library, Ms. 3142 fol. 256.

My mother died this past February. She was 92. My father died in 1985. He had been a medic during World War II. He landed in Normandy three days after the initial invasion picking up the dead and wounded from the beaches through France and into Germany. His last assignment was at a concentration camp. I don’t know where as he never spoke of it. My mother said he had nightmares for a long while after the war ended and he returned home. He would wake up screaming, “They all want their moms.”

Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was a memory falls out of the world. 
—From All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I just finished reading Doerr’s sad but lovely book about a blind girl, a mechanical wizard and two lives caught in an inexplicable time. Much of the book takes place in St. Malo-an historic town almost completely destroyed by the Allies in 1944. If you haven’t read this award-winning novel yet—you must.

“Saint-Malo Novembre 2011 (10)” by Moustachioed Womanizer – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

6 Things I Learned from Retelling The Song of Roland in 291 Tweets #SOR291



I was fascinated by the story of Stanford medievalist (and “text technologies”) researcher Elaine Treharne who compressed Beowulf into 100 tweets. #Beowulf100

Could I do the same with another medieval epic, The Song of Roland? Well, I decided to try. I based my tweeted version on the 1963 prose translation by poet W. S. Merwin. Instead of 100 tweets, I opted for 291, which corresponds to the 291 laisses, or stanzas typically found in medieval French literature, specifically French epic poetry.

I had a time frame—one month from start to end—and although I took a two week break from tweeting while in India, I actually did complete the project.

So what did I discover in all that tweeting?

1. The Song of Roland is repetitive. For example, there’s the question of whether or not to blow the horn.

LXXXIV Roland, for God’s sake, blast your horn! cries Oliver. ‪#SOR291

LXXXV Blast your horn! No! I will not be shamed! says Roland. #SOR291

LXXXVI The horn! The horn!  Oliver begs once again. Roland replies I am eager for battle! #SOR291

LXXXVII No more talk of horns! cries Roland. We will meet the enemy head on. #SOR291

Or take the fainting. Roland faints; he is revived; he faints again. Next Charles the King faints a few times. So does the Archbishop. You get the point.

But, of course, this all makes sense because The Song of Roland is a chanson de geste, or “song of deeds” and songs tend to include repetitive lyrics or refrains.

2. The Song of Roland is brutal. Hand to hand combat with halberds and swords is bloody. It is not pretty. War is tough and this is a book about war.

CVII Oliver draws his sword and slices Justin of Val Ferree. #SOR291

CVIII More Saracens are split open by the French. #SOR291

3. The Song of Roland is a propaganda piece. Written a few hundred years after the time of Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, it plays fast and loose with the historical facts and, instead, gears its message towards recruitment for the Second Crusade standing firmly on the side of the Christians. Mountjoy!

4. The Song of Roland is a book about men. The only women (Alde and the Queen of Spain)  who appear on the stage briefly are but paper dolls in this story of men.

CCLXVIII Alde, the one promised, learns of Roland’s death. She dies rather than take up with another. #SOR291

5. The Song of Roland is not The Iliad. Both books are books of war and are full of nasty killings—thousands upon thousands of young men being slaughtered in hand-to-hand combat but The Song of Roland lacks the comedic interludes from the soap-opera drama of the Greek gods. There is, however,  one similarity in that both Zeus and God interfere in the affairs of the mortals and ultimately influence the outcomes of the wars.

5. The Song of Roland should be called The Song of Charles the King. It is Charles who takes the journey and returns home a changed man. In the end, Charlemagne realizes he is merely a puppet for God’s war on the pagans. Therefore, Charles not Roland fits the mold of the epic hero.

CCXCI The night darkens. Gabriel appears with a call to arms. Oh God, laments Charles the king, my life is a burden. The End. #SOR291

291 tweets is a lot of tweets. Would I do it again? Probably not, but maybe.