We are going to a performance of Britten's War Requiem with the New York Philharmonic next week.
The central poem in the War Requiem is “The Parable of the Old Man and the Young,” in which the poet Wilfred Owen retells the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Isaac. In the Bible, the angel intercedes and Abraham sacrifices a ram instead. But Owen’s poem reads: “Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps, / And builded parapets and trenches there / And stretched forth the knife to slay his son. / When lo! an angel called him out of heaven, / Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, / Neither do anything to him, thy son./… But the old man would not so, but slew his son,--/ And half the seed of Europe, one by one”—a devastating indictment of those who would rather make war than find a way to peace. Owen died one week before the Armistice was declared, felled by a sniper’s bullet.