The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

Two Viewpoints

A German soldier in his journal wrote:

H E was a French Boy Scout--a little lad

No bigger than my Hansel. He refused

To tell if any of his countrymen

Were hidden thereabout. Fifty yards on

We ran into an ambush. Well, of course

We shot him-little fool! Poor little fool!

Thinking himself a hero as he stood

Facing our guns, so little and so young

Against the sunny vineyard--green, I thought

What wasted courage! for the child was brave,

Fool as he was. The pity...

Here there came

A sudden shrapnel, and the writing stopped...

Did I write that? O God--did I write that?

Mine--they were mine, the folly and the waste.

Now the keen edge of death has cut away

The eyelids of my soul and I must bear

The perfect understanding of the dead.

Now that I know myself as I am known,

How shall my soul endure Eternity?

God, God, if there be pity left for me,

Send to my son the child that I despised

A messenger to burn into his soul

While still he lives, the truth I died to learn!