The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

The Homecoming

Grief for a brother, an American who was killed in France, brought about the suicide of the author of this poem. The manuscript was found beside his body. The lines were published in THE CHICAGE TRIBUNE

HIS regiment came home today,

But Jim, old Jim, he's still away.

I know, I know, he's sleeping there

Out on the fields of France somewhere.

And yet, I stood out in the rain,

To watch the boys come home again,

Just wishing that it wasn't true,

And that Jim would be coming, too.

Yet, all the while, I knew, I knew--

Old Jim, he's gone. They tell me how

He fell against the Huns, and now,

He's gained a sort of dignity

That somehow seems could never be;

For Jim, he was so gay and free,

With never a thought of greater weight

Than just to keep an evening date,

Or get some cigarets, perhaps,

Or shoot a game or two of craps,

Or dance all night, then drive all day

His roadster down the speeding way.

But, now, Jim's gone, the folks will say,

He was a wonder in his day.

Old Jim--he wasn't old, you know--

I say that for I love him so--

Grew up with me, and he and I

Would never let a day go by

That I did not see some plan begun

In which we both would have some fun.

And then, there comes that fateful day,

When our men go to join the fray;

And Jim can go, but I must stay.

"Good-by, old top, if I'm not dead,

I'll give the Kaiser hell," he said.

I think he meant it, but--. Oh, well,

He didn't give the Kaiser hell.

Folks always said that Jim was light,

And stayed out much too late at night,

Frivolous and never would,

Whatever else he did, make good.

Why, no one ever thought to take

Jim seriously, the reckless rake!

But when the time to charge had come,

Jim left the trench, along with some

More daring chaps, and crawling, spanned

The hell that they call "No Man's Land."

They cut the tangled wires away,

Then our men charged, but there Jim lay--

What is it that the Scriptures say

About the chap that offers up

His all, and drinks the bitter cup--

That's how I like to think of Jim,

The glory that is left of him.

Notes

Grief for a brother, an American who was killed in France, brought about the suicide of the author of this poem. The manuscript was found beside his body. The lines were published in THE CHICAGE TRIBUNE