souls of the righteous

by Elouise

SNWM Frieze, Second Right-hand Panel, 9-21-2015 10-24-23 AM

Part of a bronze frieze by Alice and Morris Meredith Williams

I wrote the words below when we visited the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle. It honors all Scots who fell in World War I. No photos were allowed inside the building.

When I saw the large bronze frieze by Alice and Morris Meredith Williams, I wanted to remember it. So I got out my small notepad and made my way slowly along the enormous, multi-part bronze frieze, scribbling down what I observed.   

The photo above and those below are from the Scottish National War Memorial website. See the link below for examples of other bronze friezes in the Memorial.

This was one of the most moving war memorials I’ve ever seen. Around the top of the frieze are these words: “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God. There can no evil happen to them.” The reference is to all Scots who fell in WW I. They’re depicted here not as heroes, but as ordinary skilled and unskilled citizens caught up in a hellish situation.

souls of the righteous plod
one body in single file
one foot in front of the other
young and old
rich and poor
a sad parade of the war-weary
horses, dogs, a pigeon
men and a few women
from all vocations with skills
necessary for war 

men in front
a few
women at the rear
nearly all faces 
grim, set, eyes vacant,
staring straight ahead or
at the ground
clad in full uniform wearing
boots or flimsy shoes
no looking back 

a moving, shuffling
host of the nearly dead
faces devoid of emotion
bearing weapons and
tools of their trades
pushing and dragging their
instruments of war and mercy 

hand guns, shovels, rifles,
wrenches, satchels, gloves
clubs, pick axes, cups
bagpipes, canes, binoculars
artillery wire, water bags,
canteens, face mask with
steel veil and slits for eyes,
skull-like bag hung around
a neck protecting a chest
rattan snow shoes
medical instruments

a doctor’s gown and
red cross capes

in line yet standing out from the others:
one officer tenderly cradles a pigeon
in his right hand and holds a birdcage
on his right forearm
two men in kilts follow
looking over his shoulder
three pairs of human eyes riveted
tenderly on this one pigeon
that might bring them life instead of death

they shuffle along with the others
a slow march to their destiny
no sign of looking or turning back

 SNWM Face, 9-21-2015 10-06-33 AM

SNWM Tank Battilion, 9-21-2015 10-14-20 AM

SNWM Army Service Corp Rider, Horse - 9-21-2015 10-20-17 AM

SNWM Gordon Highlanders Piper, 9-21-2015 10-18-22 AM

SNWM WRNS Officer, WRAF , 9-21-2015 10-22-03 AM

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 September 2015
Images from