This post was inspired by Jamie Dedes:
I dreamed last night of my high school English teacher; Norine van Arkel. Miss van Arkel, who, at a time when our boys were being sent to the border, in a school where Bothas and Koornofs were plenty and might report her, had the courage to teach us the futility of war.
She exposed an ancient, brutal lie, perpetuated by generations of fathers that led boys to believe in the honour and the glory of going to war.
“It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country”, she read to us, and then – again, faster and faster; brutally – she read the other lines:
“yelling out and stumbling
and flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.”
“Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sack of sin;”
And then she gave us words to play with and we were made to understand that Spandau ballet is not pretty as it sounds, it is how men dance to the music of bullets.
She taught us passive protest and so much more.
I wonder if she’s still alive, I really like to write to her and thank her.
“Dulce et decorum est pro patrica mori:
mors et fugacem persequitur virum
nec parcit inbellis iuventae
poplitibus timidove tergo.”
“How sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country:
Death pursues the man who flees,
spares not the hamstrings or cowardly backs
Of battle-shy youths.”
Wilfred Owen – with Latin from Horace.
I first published this post on my previous blogging platform in February 2009.
Amazingly, a comment was left by a reader; the niece of my English teacher. She said that Norine was alive and well and provided her postal address.