An old favourite of mine, although it does rather aggrandise the war. It is the product of an unfortunate time and my interest in it lies not with the glorification of a bloody massacre, but with the inequality that it speaks of and the author’s keen sense of helplessness. Those who have reiterated time and time again that women have no place in war and think we ought to be thankful for it fundamentally fail to understand that the inaction must have been horrendous. How many sisters were their brothers’ physical betters when said brothers were only 18, if not younger? Plenty, I daresay…
When we fought campaigns (in the long Christmas rains)
With soldiers spread in troops on the floor,
I shot as straight as you, my losses were as few,
My victories as many, or more.
And when in naval battle, amid cannon’s rattle,
Fleet met fleet in the bath,
My cruisers were as trim, my battleships as grim,
My submarines cut as swift a path.
Or, when it rained too long, and the strength of the strong
Surged up and broke a way with blows,
I was as fit and keen, my fists hit as clean,
Your black eye matched my bleeding nose.
Was there a scrap or ploy in which you, the boy,
Could better me? You could not climb higher,
Ride straighter, run as quick (and to smoke made you sick) . . .
But I sit here, and you’re under fire.
Oh, it’s you that have the luck, out there in blood and muck:
You were born beneath a kindly star;
All we dreamt, I and you, you can really go and do,
And I can’t, the way things are.
In a trench you are sitting, while I am knitting
A hopeless sock that never gets done.
Well, here’s luck, my dear;–and you’ve got it, no fear;
But for me . . . a war is poor fun.