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Vincent Godfrey Burns: The Hun


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

American writers on peace and against war

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Vincent Godfrey Burns: Hell à la mode


Vincent Godfrey Burns
The Hun

He was just a prisoner,
One of a hundred human cattle,
Herded back through the lines
After a big push over the mud-hill
At Montfaucon.
Marvelous how he ever came through alive!
For he was covered with the thickest mud
From head to foot, even to his eyes!

Two hard-boiled medical corps “babies”
Carried him in,
And threw him across a bed
With as little care as if he’d been
A sack of sawdust.
When I came up to him
His head almost touched the floor
And a Frenchman (badly wounded himself),
Who had the next bunk,
Was vainly endeavoring to smash out his brains
With a bottle in his one free hand.

A doughboy cursed me roundly for paying attention
To a “Hun”!
But I went ahead and scraped his mud off,
To find he was a youth
Not more than sixteen,
A fair-haired, fair-skinned youth,
Still breathing,
But bleeding terribly from a deep wound in his chest.
When I had bathed and bound his wound
He opened his eyes, slowly, looked around.
“Where am I?” in a soft low-German accent.
“In good hands,” I said. “We’ll take good care of you.”
“Am I wounded badly?” anxiously he asked.
“No, you’ll be all right in a few days!”
But I had my doubts; it was a bad bayonet cut.

“Tell me,” I said, “how did you get cut up like this.”
He threw back his head and looked away.
“I put up my hands,” he said, “but the American
Stabbed me anyway!”
He was exhausted from loss of blood;
His breathing was labored;
His pain must have been great;
But there was no sign of complaint.
I cheered him up as best I could
And went on the rounds again….

In the morning the fair-haired youth,
With the blue eyes, was dead.
Some grieving mother in the home-land
Would never know how bravely a son had died.

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