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Six Young Men by Ted Hughes
21 February 2002

 

It provokes the usual war-story reactions of passive, useless, silent grief, pity, a sense of hopelessness in the face of the wasted life and the knowledge that for every one of the millions who died there is a story like this one. I note that every one of the five stanzas ends with a line about death, regardless of the subject matter of the preceding eight lines.In The Sugarbag Years, an oral history of New Zealand's experience in the Great Depression, there is a story about a young man who went though medical school during the Depression sleeping in people's basements. He graduated, went off to the war and was killed. For some reason I have chosen this particular story to touch me, possibly because I can understand the struggle of studying in such conditions and the wasted academic effort resulting. But that does not make me immune to other, similar stories. I suppose you get used to it eventually.

 

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