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Dana Burnet: The Village

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

American writers on peace and against war

Dana Burnett: Selections on war

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Dana Burnet
In a Village
(Belgium)

They were so happy! Merely that, no more;
They did not ask for riches or the pomp
Of palaces. Their eyes had smiles and tears
For such small dramas as the laggard day
Fetched o’er their homely door-sills. They lived truths,
Came by the world’s ruts to the world’s delights,
Their hearts leaped up to hear a baby laugh –
They went out in the morning to the fields.

A church spire lifting slender to the sun
Made them sufficient symbol for their faith.
They thrilled at commonplaces; and their hearths
Were forges of the day’s mild happenings,
Where life was welded, link by glowing link,
And all so simply that it never galled
The limbs that bore it.

All they asked of earth
Was leave to live on it, to reap its fruit,
To drink its wine, to eat its daily bread,
To love a woman and to trust a man –
To worship God unhindered and to sleep
At last beneath the honest soil they loved. That and no more.
It seems a bitter thing
That man should so deny the common bond
Of godhood as to slay his brother man.
And when life’s little is that brother’s all,
The deed becomes a riddle thrice accursed.

What menace breeds in simple villages?
These folk had only need of bread and love;
They dreamed of no far empires, nor of lands
Beyond their hedgerows. They were all content
To wear the yoke of peasantry, to toil
From sun to sun.
They were the simplest souls
That ever dwelt beneath a smiling sky.
They lived, they loved, they laughed, they worshiped God,
They broke their bread and drained their cups of wine –
Looked out across the fields at even-tide
With mute and nameless happiness….Their eyes
Were but the eyes of children unafraid.

And now their gutted houses gape and stare
With awful empty doors. Their hearths are dust,
Their spire of faith is broken like a reed,
Their women, wives and mothers – torn apart
From those whose very souls they were – lie slain
With awful butcheries. A flame leaps out,
The dust lifts ‘neath the tramp of iron feet.
The village fades behind a crimson cloud,
Above the marching column writhes the smoke
Of stricken homes, a banner flung to God –
And in a trooper’s knapsack for a sign
Of victory…a baby’s withered hand.

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