Home > Uncategorized > Max Plowman: The dead soldiers. Killing men is always killing God.

Max Plowman: The dead soldiers. Killing men is always killing God.


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Max Plowman: The God of War

Max Plowman: The Goddess of War


Max Plowman
The Dead Soldiers

‘God only Acts and Is in existing beings or Men.’

SPECTRUM Trench. Autumn. Nineteen-Sixteen.
And Zenith. (The Border Regiment will remember.)
A little north of where Lesboeufs had been.
(The Australians took it over in December.)
Just as the scythe had caught them, there they lay,
A sheaf for Death, ungarnered and untied:
A crescent moon of men who showed the way
When first the Tanks crept out, till they too died:
Guardsmen, I think, but one could hardly tell,
It was a forward slope, beyond the crest,
Muddier than any place in Dante’s hell,
Where sniping gave us very little rest.
At night one stumbled over them and swore;
Each day the rain hid them a little more.

Fantastic forms, in postured attitudes,
Twisted and bent, or lying deathly prone;
Their individual hopes my thought eludes,
But each man had a hope to call his own.
Much else? God knows. But not for me the thought,
‘Your mothers made your bodies: God your souls,
And, for because you dutifully fought,
God will go mad and make of half-lives, wholes.’
No. God in every one of you was slain;
For killing men is always killing God,
Though Life destroyed shall come to life again
And loveliness rise from the sodden sod.
But if of life we do destroy the best,
God wanders wide, and weeps in his unrest.

April, 1917


The Two Worlds

‘How terrible then is the field of Death Where he doth rend the vault of heaven And shake the gates of hell!’

‘Death, O Terror born of war!
You would destroy this gracious earth,
And deafen with your brazen roar
The music love can bring to birth;
But there’s a sphere
You cannot hear
Singing its rapture;
My love and I compose a world you cannot capture.

We are a world complete in love,
So you may split your world in sunder:
The heavens with raving discord move,
And crack the earth with hellish thunder;
My love and I Have but to sigh
Our heart’s accord,
And lo! our world’s complete we need not speak a word.

Rage as you will, distracting Death,
You have no power to hold us single;
Love breathes you vanish at a breath:
You cannot part what lovers mingle.
Shout, wail and cry,
My love and I Are not affrighted.
At this day’s end we shall sleep unbenighted.

June, 1915


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