Editorial: In praise of a well-versed soldiery

The Israeli army thinks poetry could ruin a soldiers image. We beg to differ

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The Independent Online

Is poetry un-military? The Israeli army thinks so. A poetic squaddie from the Nahal Infantry Brigade was about to recite some verses on a radio station in Jerusalem when he was recalled by his commander and told his on-air Parnassian effusions would “ruin the image of the combat soldier”.

We beg to differ. Poetry and soldiering have gone hand in hand from ancient times. What is Homer’s Iliad but an epic poem about the siege and sack of Troy? And there isn’t a troop of infantry alive that wouldn’t thrill to a recital of GK Chesterton’s “Lepanto” (“Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea/ White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty!”)

And if the Israeli Defence Forces need lead in their pencil, may we recommend Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib”: “And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,/ Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.”