Like other women in this section, Margaret Sackville was opposed to the First World War. Her brother, the Earl De La Warr, was killed in the war, and her aunt, Muriel De La Warr, and her uncle, Herbrand Sackville, like Margaret all were involved in the Peace Movement. Sackville was a children’s author and a poet. In 1916, … Continued
Like other women in this section, Margaret Sackville was opposed to the First World War. Her brother, the Earl De La Warr, was killed in the war, and her aunt, Muriel De La Warr, and her uncle, Herbrand Sackville, like Margaret all were involved in the Peace Movement. Sackville was a children’s author and a poet. In 1916, she wrote a hard-hitting poem, “Nostra Culpa,” in which she chastised women who did not stand against the war.
We knew the sword accursed, yet with the strongProclaimed the sword triumphant. Yea this wrongUnto our children, unto those unbornWe did, blaspheming God. We feared the scornOf men; men worshipping pride, so where they ledWe followed. Dare we now lament our dead?Shadows and echoes, harlots! We betrayedOur sons; because men laughed we were afraid.That silent wisdom which was ours to keptDeep buried; thousands perished; still we slept.Children were slaughtered, women raped, the weakDown-trodden. Very quiet was our sleep.
There was no sound at all, no crying in the village,Nothing you would count as sound, that is, after the shells;Only behind a wall the low sobbing of women,The creaking of a door, a lost dog-nothing else.Silence which might be felt, no pity in the silence,Horrible, soft like blood, down all the blood-stained ways;In the middle of the street two corpses lie unburied,And a bayoneted woman stares in the market-place.Humble and ruined folk-for these no pride of conquest,Their only prayer: “O Lord, give us our daily bread!”Not by the battle fires, the shrapnel are we haunted;Who shall deliver us from the memory of these dead?
Reflective Questions: “Nostra Culpa” and “A Memory”
“Nostra Culpa” is Latin meaning “our fault.” What is the fault that Margaret Sackville speaks of in this poem? Who have made mistakes? What are these mistakes? What are the end results?
How might Sackville’s feelings ring true today?
In A Memory Sackville talks of a scene after the war has ceased in a village. Describe that scene in your own words. How is this a memory that will stay with a person who has experienced it?
Consider the “silence” that Sackville speaks of in the poem. She talks of silence even though she describes other sounds. What is the significance of the silence?
The Voices Education Project offers tools, philosophies, and learning methods that will help young people understand the roots of conflict and the trauma of war, confront the pain and fear at the heart of conflict, and help to build healthy human communities in the wake of war. We use the arts and education to transform the consciousness of young people, give teachers and students a way to explore the most important and terrifying issues of our day, and create a dialogue in which all voices can be heard, and all points of view included, without engendering fear, hatred, or anger.