|THREE LITTLE WORDS
Olwyn Green, 2000
Then – shuts the Door –
To her divine Majority-
Present no more –
You recognise him, the Australian soldier, the digger, the Anzac. He was first sighted one dawn scrambling up a distant, bullet-racked beach. Some, though, claim they sighted him earlier, on horseback in the guise of a bushman. If the imagination were to be stretched, he could have been seen even earlier, when his horse was white and he carried a javelin. And he glanced up to see if the beautiful lady were watching.
It is the one scrambling up the beach we surely recognise as the one with the Australian face. Where he emerged was close to a like beach on which another very identifiable face, of another hero, the swift, heel-weak Achilles fought, grieved and died.
They are two faces that stand out among the thousands in the line of heroes that stretches back to mythic times, indicating that the die in the psyche, is, after all, "transpersonal."
The hero of the many faces belongs to a caste of souls, the entry to which is trial by combat to prove his essential quality, his courage, and his allegiance to a god, a king, an ideal - or to a love.
At Agincourt, near the Somme, the compact became Word: the promise given was that "to the ending of the world" those who had joined the band of warrior brothers would be able to "stand a tip toe among men."
In the caste of warrior the hero is deaf to the cynics’ words of warning that he is being duped. The warrior who was to become the Anzac, the hero with the Australian face, heeded Masefield’s notice that he indeed bore the warrior stamp: "For physical beauty and nobility of bearing they surpassed any men I have ever seen. They walked and looked like kings in old poems." Perhaps they all should have listened more carefully, for they could have been warned by the one who observed more keenly that the smug faced crowds cheering them on would never know " the hell where youth and laughter go."
It was noted by a woman, Virginia Woolf, after their violent war they call the great war that the consciousness of man had changed. It took another more violent war for it to become a realisation that the soul of man, let alone the warrior, had been emptied. Warriors were no longer heroes. War was no longer an honourable tournament or contest. It was a disease.
Is it that the men who readily elected to join the imagined caste of warriors on June 26th 1950 to fight for freedom had not realised that all the signifiers had been scrambled in a mushroom cloud: that the world had changed, "changed utterly?"
Like Achilles and like the first Anzacs, they went, their die cast, on the long hero journey, to another land, and fought in the hell that was their war, and lost and grieved. They came home standing tall in the belief that they wore the hero’s face.
Nobody noticed them. They soon became forgotten men of a forgotten "war." They set out for the sanctum of heroes where surely they would be properly received. But the door was shut, or it was slammed in their face. Echoing in their ears to the end of time, was their damnation through three little words. "Yours was not a war. It was only A Police Action."
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