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Hervey Allen: Dragon’s Breath


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

American writers on peace and against war

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


Hervey Allen
Dragon’s Breath

We held the last stone wall – when day was red –
They crept like morning shadows through the dead,
The flammenwerfer with their dragon’s breath
Compressed in nippled bottle-tanks of death.

They puffed along the wall and one long cry
Withered away into the morning sky,
And some made crablike gestures where they lay
And all our faces turned oil gray,
Before the smoke rolled by.

It is beyond belief
How men can live
All curled up like a leaf.

I saw a man bloom in a flower of flame,
Roaring with fire,
Three times he called a name;
Three times he whirled within a white-hot pod
With busy hands and cried, “Oh, God! Oh, God!”

Now when the crumpets lie with blusterous joy
And the silk, wind-tweaked colors virgin fresh,
Borne by the blithe, boy bodies glitter past,
As the old gladiators throw their mesh;
The dragon’s breath leaps from the bugle blast
And Azrael comes pounding with his drum –
Fe, fe,…fi, fo, fum
I smell the roasting flesh!

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