Home > Uncategorized > Hervey Allen: Hands off our dead! To war orators.

Hervey Allen: Hands off our dead! To war orators.


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

American writers on peace and against war

Hervey Allen: Dragon’s Breath


Hervey Allen
From Water Lilies

They make me think of battlefields I saw
Where butterflies with wings of sulphurous gold
Crawled on gray faces death had made obscene
That stared with stolid dolls’ eyes from the mold.


Hands Off

Dedicated to Orators and Others.

I know a glade in Argonne where they lean –
Those crosses – loosened by last winter’s snows,
Throwing their silent shadows on the green;
There I could go this very day – God knows!
To hide a sorrow mocked by tears and words,
To fall face downward on the catholic grass
That sprang this springtime through the shroud of snows
And let the little, greenwood birds say mass.

Like sound of taps at twilight from the hill,
The solemn thought comes that these lads are gone;
At evening when the breathing world grows still
And ghostly day steals from the bird-hushed lawn,
When over wooded crests the swimming moon
Casts ivory spells of beauty they have lost,
Across delicious valleys warm with June
I count the ghastly price the victory cost.

I count it in moongold and coin of life,
The love and beauty that these dead have missed,
Who lived to reap no glory from the strife,
But are like sleepers by the loved one kissed;
Each sleeps and knows not that she is so near,
Or at the most sinks deeper in his dream,
And life, and all blithe things they once held dear,
Are far and faint like voices of a stream.

Hands off our dead! For all they did forbear
To drag them from their graves to point some speech;
Less sickening was the gas reek over there,
Less deadly was the shrapnel’s whirring screech;
You cannot guess the uttermost they gave;
Those martyrs did not die for chattering daws
To loot false inspiration from the grave
When mouthing fools turn ghouls to gain applause.

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