Thursday, November 8, 2007

"Lest We Forget - - "


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.

Carl Sandburg (1918)
Private, 6th Infantry, Spanish-American War


In the place to which I go,
Better men than I have died.
Freeman friend and conscript foe,
Face to face and side by side,
In the shallow grave abide.

Melinite that seared their brains,
Gas that slew them in a snare,
War’s inferno of strange pains,
What are these to them who share
That great boon of silence there?

When like blood the moon is red;
And a shadow hides the sun,
We shall awake, the so-long dead,
We shall know our quarrel done,--
Will God tell us who has won?

Ron Lewis Carton
Lieutenant, The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry


Soldiers never do die well;
Crosses mark the places--
Wooden crosses where they fell,
Stuck above their faces,
Soldiers pitch and cough and twitch--
All the world roars red and black;
Soldiers smother in a ditch,
Choking through the whole attack.

Ernest Hemingway, Paris, 1923
Ambulance Driver, Red Cross, World War I

Mesopotamia (1917)

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave;
But the men who left them thriftly to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave:

They shall not return to us, the strong men coldly slain
In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
Are they too strong and wise to put away?

Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide---
Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?

Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?
When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
By the favour and contrivance of their kind?

Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take counsel with their friends,
To confirm and re-establish each career?

Their lives cannot repay us—their death could not undo—
The shame that they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
Shall we leave it unabated in its place?

Rudyard Kipling
Father of Lieutenant John Kipling, The Irish Guards,
lost at the Battle of Loos, 1915

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