The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

German Prisoners

When first I saw you in the curious street

Like some platoon of soldier ghosts in grey,

My mad impulse was all to smite and slay,

To spit upon you -- tread you 'neath my feet.

But when I saw how each sad soul did greet

My gaze with no sign of defiant frown,

How from tired eyes looked spirits broken down,

How each face showed the pale flag of defeat,

And doubt, despair, and disillusionment,

And how were grievous wounds on many a head,

And on your garb red-faced was other red;

And how you stooped as men whose strength was spent,

I knew that we had suffered each as other,

And could have grasped your hand and cried, "My brother!"