The Art of War


The pounding of shells, the mines, the death traps, the massive, blind destruction, the acrid stench of rotting flesh, the communal graves, the charred bodies, and the fear. These are the images of war. War has changed over the centuries from battles of legions of ironclad soldiers enveloped in glimmering armor fighting for what they believe to senseless acts of guerrilla warfare against those too coward to be draft-dodgers. Those who were there, who experienced the terror first hand were deeply effected and changed forever. In their retinas, images of blood and gore are burned for the rest of their life.
It has been said that there is no point in the "pretty, flowery, pastel" art that makes a person feel good. It doesn?t have any use, for the artist or the observer. Art is supposed to deal with emotion. It is one thing that helps people heal, not only by seeing, but also by doing. Art is able to take all the bad emotions, all the hurts and pains and lets you express them. It is no wonder that many that have seen the destruction of war have turned to art. You don?t see any "pretty pictures" of war. I?d like you to find one pretty aspect of war. There is none, so therefore, war, as a subject for art, is hardly ever pretty. The stories that they write, the paintings that they paint, the pictures that they take, are usually horrific scenes. Only rarely do we see pictures of triumph (i.e. raising the flag at Iwo Jima) but those scenes take place only after the aftermath.
It is also no wonder that many war artists actually use their talent only during and after war. They use their art as a place for catharsis. Only after they are done healing the torment of the war, they can be done with art. One artist in World War One, Braque, fought in 1914, a year later he was wounded. During his convalescence, he painted. A year later he returned to his home. He left not a single drawing or canvas alluding to what he had been through and no representation of the war is present in his work. He made himself a fresh start, like others did. Many painted and drew what they saw and lived through. From the sketchbooks of pencil drawings done at the warfront to the canvases painted on returning home, theirs is an intense and accurate testimony. Yet, many have gone forgotten. This is probably due to the painful memories they conjure up. This is why they have not much been looked at once the war was over.
One of my most favorite poems, is an untitled poem by James Monroe Meserve. Meserve was a solider in the American Civil war. In this poem, he his writing home to his family. He talks of his wife and children being his guardian angels. I always cry when I read this poem because it is a sweet and loving poem about this man?s undying love, even after his death. Yet, Meserve still is able to have an underlying fact of the dark truth of war. He writes:
When my lonely post I'm walking
In some distant grove or glen,
O, will not the wand'ring angels
Watch their loving father then??

Far thee well, my loving Addie,
Ah, the word doth take my breath,
No -- my heart is clinging to thee,
As the ivy clings in death.

Meserve makes his love known for his family, but if you read between the lines, you can hear his pain and anguish of being away from them. He went off to war to fight for what he believed in. He has already lost his two sons to the war and now he was joining in to help. I think in this way, writing home is the only way that he can vent his fear. He fears that he might be forgotten as just another one of the millions who fought and died in the war. By writing this poem he is not forgotten.
Ethel Lynn Eliot Beers was another Civil War Veteran, but she wasn?t fighting on the front lines. She was a nurse. In her bleak poem "Across the Lines," she tells the story of ol? Charlie Coleman. She touches on two important issues of war. First, Coleman is a man killed