Saturday, 9 June 2018
Keith Douglas: 'Aristocrats' and Unicorns, Almost
Keith Douglas died on this day in 1944.
The Welsh poet, novelist and playwright Owen Sheers wrote a one-man play based on Douglas' life, Unicorns, Almost, some years ago and it premiered last month in Hay-on-Wye. I wasn't able to get to Hay, so I'm hoping that the play will be shown in London at some point.
You can now purchase the playscript from Faber, here: https://www.faber.co.uk/shop/drama/9780571231881-unicorns-almost.html
Here is the Guardian's review of the play: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/may/28/unicorns-almost-review-poignant-portrait-of-a-tormented-war-poet
And here is Keith Douglas' poem 'Aristocrats', from which the title of the play was taken. In it, Douglas takes a very cold look beyond the myths of war's glories.
ARISTOCRATS (Keith Douglas)
The noble horse with courage in his eye,
clean in the bone, looks up at a shellburst:
away fly the images of the shires
but he puts the pipe back in his mouth.
Peter was unfortunately killed by an 88;
it took his leg away, he died in the ambulance.
I saw him crawling on the sand, he said
It's most unfair, they've shot my foot off.
How can I live among this gentle
obsolescent breed of heroes, and not weep?
for they are fading into two legends
in which their stupidity and chivalry
are celebrated. Each, fool and hero, will be an immortal.
These plains were their cricket pitch
and in the mountains the tremendous drop fences
brought down some of the runners. Here then
under the stones and earth they dispose themselves,
I think with their famous unconcern.
It is not gunfire I hear, but a hunting horn.