The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

In a Slum

I never heard him speak a kindly word,

My tears were answered with a savage oath,

He drank what we could very ill afford,

He was a bully and a drunkard both.

He broke my body as he broke my soul,

I shivered when I heard his stumbling feet;

At times the very household "sticks" he stole,

To pawn and pay for women in the street.

I stitched and labored for his children's bread,

Fourpence a shirt the sweated wage I earned,

Save when the doctor forced me to my bed,

Where thrice a mother's travail I had learned.

The day he left me for the barrack square,

He swore we women were no earthly use

For anything but filling men with care,

His parting words were words of foul abuse.

And now they tell me of a hero's death,

How one to twelve he held the Huns at bay,

And won the Cross, yet with his passing breath

He bade the chaplain "take his face away."

Inside the pubs the neighbors speak his praise,

The man who brought the world about our slum,

Or by the open door they stand and gaze,

And wonder why his slattern wife is dumb.

The preacher dwells the ways of God upon,

Surpassing man's design and woman's wit;

Oh God, I can't be sorry he is gone,

But going I am glad he did his bit.