It sure was fine to be a soldier for a year.
But it is finer to feel free again.
There was enough of depravity and pain
In these merciless human mills.
Sergeants, Barrack walls, farewell.
Farewell canteens, marching songs.
Lighthearted, I leave the city and capitol.
Kuno is leaving, Kuno is never coming back.
Now, fate, drive me where you will.
I am not tugging on my jacket from now on.
I lift my eyes into the world.
A wind is starting up. Locomotives roar.
(Shortly before departing for the theater of war)
for Peter Scher
Before dying I am making my poem.
Quiet, comrades, don’t disturb me.
We are going off to war. Death is our cement.
If only my beloved did not shed these tears for me.
What am I doing. I go gladly.
Mother is crying. One must be made of iron.
The sun sinks to the horizon.
Soon I shall be tossed into a gentle mass grave.
In the sky the fine red of evening is burning.
Perhaps in thrirteen days I’ll be dead.
Thousands of stars twinkle in the gentle sky.
The landscape glows. From the distant meadow
Mute marching men slowly come closer.
Only once a young Lieutenant, a page boy in love,
Steps out—and stands lost in thought.
The baggage train waddles along at the rear.
The moon makes everything much stranger.
And now and then the drivers cry out:
High up on the shakiest munitions truck,
Like a little toad, finely chiseled
Out of black wood, hands gently clenched,
On his back the rifle, gently buckled,
A smoking cigar in his crooked mouth,
Lazy as a monk, needy as a dog
—He had pressed drops of valerian on his heart—
In the yellow moon, ridiculously mad,
I would like to lie in my bed
In a white shirt,
Wished the beard was gone,
The head combed.
The fingers were clean,
The nails also,
You, my tender woman,
Might provide peace.
The troops are singing fervently, each for himself:
God, protect me from misfortune,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
That no grenades strike me,
That the bastards, our enemies,
Do not catch me, do not shoot me,
That I don’t die like a dog
For the dear fatherland.
Look, I would like to go on living,
Milk cows, bang girls
And beat the bastard, Sepp,
Get drunk often
Until my blessed death.
Look, I eagerly and gladly recite
Seven rosaries daily,
If you, God, in your grace
Would kill my friend Huber or Meier,
And not me.
But if the worst should come,
Let me not be too badly wounded.
Send me a slight leg wound,
A small injury to the arm,
So that I may return as a hero,
With a story to tell.