by Robert Graves

When that glad day shall break to match

“Before–the–War” with “Since–the–Peace”,

And up I climb to twist new thatch

Across my cottage roof, while geese

Stand stiffly there below the vex

The yard with hissing from long necks,

In that immense release,

That shining day, shall we hear said:

“New wars to–morrow, more men dead”?

     When peace time comes and horror`s over,

     Despair and darkness like a dream,

     When fields are ripe with corn and clover,

     The cool white dairy full of cream,

     Shall we work happily in the sun,

     And think “it`s over now and done”,

     Or suddenly shall we seem

     To watch a second bristling shadow

     Of armed men move across the meadow?

Will it be over once for all,

With no more killed and no more maimed;

Shall we be safe from terror`s thrall,

The eagle caged, the lion tamed;

Or will the young of that vile brood

The young ones also, suck up blood

Unconquered, unashamed,

Rising again with lust and thirst?

Better we all had died at first,

Better that killed before our prime

We rotted deep in earthy slime.

This poem by Robert Graves first appeared in The New Statesman magazine in 1918. Like all survivors of the Great War, Graves had been horrified by the senseless destruction of human life by political and military incompetence. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars, but……“the young of that vile brood” would burst forth from their grotesque mother`s womb, and grow to suck up yet more blood to sustain their hatred and paranoia against the world. All the words and humane sentiments which poets and writers expended upon the utter, shameless futility of war, came to nothing, as “unconquered, unashamed/ Rising again with lust and thirst” the Nazis took full advantage of the miserable plight of a destitute Germany, brought to it`s economic knees by the sadistically vengeful Allies, who wished to see Germany crippled, and humbled forever, but only paved the way for the ravenous legions of Hell to enter the world. For Graves, it was “Better we all had died at first/ Better that killed before our prime” than to fight such a merciless, soulless war ever again. But, they all should have known better; it`s never over and done, and never will be while blind greed and personal ambition rules humanity.


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