Er is inderdaad veel ‘getoeterd’ om honderd jaar eerste wereldoorlog te gedenken.
Maar toch leg ik nog graag deze tekst ‘Green Boughs’ van de Schotse Naomi Mitchison (1897-1999, ja 101 geworden!) in je schoentje, laarsje, pantoffel, bottine.
Niet alleen nodig ik je uit om eens in dat lange leven van deze merkwaardige vrouw te duiken (ze schreef 90 boeken) maar via die directe tekst van haar het international memorial in Ablain-Saint Nazaire (Frankrijk) te bezoeken.
Daar vind je, in een reusachtige ‘memorial ring de namen van 600.000 gedode jongens die van Frankrijk een ‘youthless nation’ hebben gemaakt.

Makkers staakt uw wild geraas.


Green Boughs

My young, dear friends are dead,
All my own generation.
Pity a youthless nation,
Pity the girls unwed,
Whose young lovers are dead.
They came from the gates of birth
To boyhood happy and strong,
To a youth of glorious days,
We give them honour and song,
And theirs, theirs is the praise.
But the old inherit the earth.
They knew what was right and wrong,
They were idealists,
Clean minds, my friends, my friends!
Artists and scientists,
Their lives that should have been long!
But everything lovely ends.
They came from college or school,
They did not falter or tire,
But the old, the stupid had rule
Over that eager nation,
And all my own generation
They have cast into the fire.


Green Boughs by Naomi Mitchison appears in A Gathering: A Personal Anthology of Scottish Poems, edited by Alexander McCall Smith; it was originally published in Mitchison’s collection The Laburnum Branch (Jonathan Cape, 1926).



Mitchison was a prolific writer, a social activist and a novelist in various genres. She published only two collections of poems during her life, with a gap of more than 50 years between them. Both The Laburnum Branch (1926), where Green Boughs first appeared, and The Cleansing of the Knife and Other Poems (1978) include poems that are pioneering contributions to what is virtually an independent genre: war poems by women and non-combatants.