The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

Unser Gott

They held a great prayer-service in Berlin,

And augured German triumph from some words

Said to be spoken by the Jewish God

To Gideon, which signified that He

Was staunchly partial to the Israelites.

The aisles were thronged; and in the royal box

(I had it from a tourist who was there,

Clutching her passport, anxious, like the rest),

There sat the Kaiser, looking "very sad."

And then they sang; she said it shook the heart.

The women sobbed; tears salted bearded lips

Unheeded; and my friend looked back and saw

A young girl crumple in her mother's arms.

They carried out a score of them, she said,

While German hearts, through bursting German throats

Poured out, Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott!

(Yea, "Unser Gott! Our strength is Unser Gott!

Not that light-minded Bon Dieu of France!")

I think we all have made our God too small.

There was a young man, a good while ago,

Who taught that doctrine... but they murdered him

Because he wished to share the Jewish God

With other folk.

They are long-lived, these fierce

Old hating Gods of nations; but at last

There surely will be spilled enough of blood

To drown them all! The deeps of sea and air,

Of old the seat of gods, no more are safe,

For mines and monoplanes. The Germans, now,

Can surely find and rout the God of France

With Zeppelins, or some slim mother's son

Of Paris, or of Tours, or Brittany,

Can drop a bomb into the Feste Burg,

And, having crushed the source of German strength,

Die happy in his blazing monoplane.

Sad jesting! If there be no God at all,

Save in the heart of man, why, even so --

Yea, all the more, -- since we must make our God,

Oh, let us make Him large enough for all,

Or cease to prate of Him! If kings must fight,

Let them fight for their glory, openly,

And plain men for their lands and for their homes,

And heady youths, who go to see the fun,

Blaspheme not God. True, maybe we might leave

The God of Germany to some poor frau

Who cannot go, who can but wait and mourn,

Except that she will teach Him to her sons --

A God quite scornful of the Slavic soul,

And much concerned to keep Alsace-Lorraine.

They should go godless, too -- the poor, benumbed

Crushed, anguished women, till their hearts can hold

A greater Comforter!

(Yet it is hard

To make Him big enough! For me, I like

The English and the Germans and the French,

The Russians, too; and Servians, I should think,

Might well be very interesting to God.

But, do the best I may, my God is white,

And hardly takes a nigger seriously

This side of Africa. Not those, at least

Who steal my wood, and of a summer night

Keep me awake with shouting, where they sit

With monkey-like fidelity and glee

Grinding through their well-oiled sausage-mill --

The dead machinery of the white man's church --

Raw jungle-fervor, mixed with scraps sucked dry

Of Israel's old sublimities: not those.

And when they threaten us, the Higher Race,

Think you, which side is God's? Oh, let us pray

Lest blood yet spurt to wash that black skin white,

As now it flows because a German hates

A Cossack, and an Austrian a Serb!)

What was it that he said so long ago,

The young man who outgrew the Jewish God --

"Not a sparrow falleth --?" Ah, God, God,

And there shall fall a million murdered men!