Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?
I am the grass.
Let me work.
As Carl Sandburg’s 1918 poem ‘Grass’ evocatively describes, after a battle the landscape is reclaimed by nature and the inexorable process of forgetting begins. As a researcher, I have long been fascinated with the First World War and the changes it wrought in 20th-century society, as well as how the events of 1914-18 still have resonance with us today. The centenary of First World War is the perfect opportunity not merely to commemorate and remember the events of the war, but also to interrogate its lasting impact and to reflect meaningfully on the legacy of the conflict from the temporal distance of one hundred years.