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A Small Selection of Poetry

"Dulce et Decorum est", Wilfred Owen
"The New Colossus", Emma Lazarus
"Tommy", Rudyard Kipling
"The Final Inspection", unknown


DULCE ET DECORUM EST 2nd Lieutenant Wilfred Owen • 2nd Battalion, The Manchester Regiment Written 8 Oct 1917 • Killed in action, 4 Nov 1918, Sambre Canal, France
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, And toward our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep, many had lost their boots, But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, But someone still was yelling out and stumbling And floundering like a man in fire or lime. -- Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams before my helpless sight He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -- My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.*
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori": literally "it is sweet and right to die for your country",
in the sense that "it is a wonderful and great honor to fight and die for your country".

THE NEW COLOSSUS Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon hand Glows worldwide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

TOMMY Rudyard Kipling
I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint of beer. The publican 'e ups an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here." The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die, I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I: O it's Tommy this, and Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away"; But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play, The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play, O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play. I went into a theatre as sober as could be, They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me. They sent me to the gallery or 'round the music-'alls. But when it comes to fightin', Lord! They'll shove me in the stalls! For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy wait outside"; But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide, The troopships' on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide, O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide. Yes, making mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap; An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit. Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy 'ow's your soul?" But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll, The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll, O, it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll. We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too, But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you; An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints: Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints; While it's Tommy this an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy fall be'ind," But it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind. There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind, O it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind. You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all: We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational. Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace. For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that an' "Chuck him out, the brute!" But it's "Saviour of his country," when the guns begins to shoot; Yes, it's Tommy this an' Tommy that, an' anything you please; But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!

THE FINAL INSPECTION From an old soldier, a friend; dedicated to all that have served.
(see note below.)
The soldier stood and faced his God Which must always come to pass He hoped his shoes were shining Just as brightly as his brass "Step foward now you soldier, How shall I deal with you? Have you always turned the other cheek, And to my church have you been true?" The soldier squared his shoulders and said, "No Lord, I guess I ain't, Because those of us who carry guns, Can't always be saints "I've had to work most Sundays And at times my talk was tough And sometimes I've been violent Because the streets were awfully rough" But I never took a penny, That was'nt mine to keep Though I worked a lot of overtime When the bills just got to steep, And I never passed a cry for help Although, at times I shook with fear And sometimes, God forgive I've wept unmanly tears I know I don't deserve a place Among the people here That never wanted me around Except to calm there fears If you have a place for me here O' Lord It needn't be so grand I've never expected, or had so much But if you don't I'll understand" There was a silence all around the throne Where the Saints had often trod As this soldier waited quietly For the judgment from his God "Step foward now you soldier, You've borne your burdens well Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets, You've done your time in Hell"

Note: The original author remains unknown, even to an online search. This variation was received in e-mail from John Hungerford. 'Oljon' served with the World War II 387th Engineer Battalion (Separate) (Colored) in the Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, North Apennines, and Po Valley Campaigns - 20 months of Hell. We had exchanged several notes in his late years.

One of Oljon's notes (14 May 2000) fits especially well here and now:
"... We had [in Italy] a very good, well disciplined, hard working battalion. ... During the Korean police action, I served in the 406th Engineer Brigade with white troops. It was only then that I realized how good our WWII black battalion was. I suppose we expected more of the men and we got it. That's not meant to knock anybody. I just wish I had been smart enough to fully appreciate the troops of the 387th Engineer Battalion. Too late, we get smart! ..."


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