A German soldier’s peace poem

Submitted by Matthew on 10 September, 2014 - 11:50

From The Workers’ Dreadnought, 29 June 1918

A poem was found on the dead body of a German soldier. The British authorities reproduced it in facsimile and threw it from aeroplanes into the German lines.

Some of the copies were blown into the British lines, and a British soldier who caught one sent it to the New-York-based magazine Flying. The editor of Flying wrote: “Its value for propaganda purposes is a matter of opinion. The sentiment is of the class that Americans describe as ‘mush’.”

The Workers’ Dreadnought commented “we disagree with the editor of Flying. This German soldier voices our own view.”

I was a soldier, but only by compulsion
When they enlisted me a feeling of revulsion
Obsessed me, as away from those who cared
They drove me to the barracks like the common herd
Yes, from the homestead and those I loved so dearly
I had to vanish, and now I feel sincerely
The pangs of longing for the home I blessed
And anger’s passion surges in my breast

I was a soldier, but only one unwilling;
I hate the tunic, and all the life of killing,
A simple stick’s enough for my defence,
To battle’s fearful orgy must I hence
To slaughter hapless, blameless brother men
Who had not hurt me — I was a soldier then!

I was a soldier, in discipline saluting,
Instead of freedom, ‘midst a world of shooting
Instead of working with its life and joys,
I saw the reckless courage of our boys,
Oh! tell me why you need these soldiers, truly,
The people want to live in peace and ruly:
‘Tis but your ever gnawing lust for power —
But come, let’s live again the Golden Hour

Brothers, arise, whatever be your nation,
Hungarian, Frenchman, Danish, or Alsatian,
Whate’er your colours, whatever be your land,
Instead of lead shoot forth the brotherhand,
And mimic warfare let us hasten toward,
And from their troubles all our people free,
Those who want war let them alone go forward -
A freedom soldier I will gladly be.

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