You love us when we’re heroes, home on leave,
Or wounded in a mentionable place.
You worship decorations; you believe
That chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace.
You make us shells. You listen with delight,
By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled.
You crown our distant ardours while we fight,
And mourn our laurelled memories when we’re killed.
You can’t believe that British troops “retire”
When hell’s last horror breaks them, and they run,
Trampling the terrible corpses—blind with blood.
O German mother dreaming by the fire,
While you are knitting socks to send your son
His face is trodden deeper in the mud.
He’s got a Blighty wound. He’s safe;
War’s fine and bold and bright.
She can forget the doomed and prisoned men
Who agonize and fight.
He’s back in France. She loathes the listless
And peril of his plight.
Beseeching Heaven to send him home again,
She prays for peace each night.
Husbands and sons and lovers; everywhere
They die; War bleeds us white.
Mothers and wives and sweethearts,—they don’t care
So long as He’s all right.
Does it matter?—losing your legs?...
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after football
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter?—losing your sight?...
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?...
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they’ll know that you’ve fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.
No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re “longing to go out again,”—
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk,
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride....
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.
Ring your sweet bells; but let them be farewells
To the green-vista’d gladness of the past
That changed us into soldiers; swing your bells
To a joyful chime; but let it be the last.
What means this metal in windy belfries hung
When guns are all our need? Dissolve these bells
Whose tones are tuned for peace: with martial tongue
Let them cry doom and storm the sun with shells.