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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

To the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade




To the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade


Say of them

They knew no Spanish

At first, and nothing of the arts of war

At first:

how to shoot, how to attack, how to retreat

How to kill, how to meet killing

At first.

Say they kept the air blue

Grousing and griping,

Arid words and harsh faces. Say

They were young:

The haggard in a trench, the dead on the olive slope

All young. And the thin, the ill and the shattered,

Sightless, in hospitals, all young.


Say of them they were young, there was much they did not know,

They were human. Say it all; it is true. Now say

When the eminent, the great, the easy, the old,

And the men on the make

Were busy bickering and selling, Betraying conniving, transacting, splitting hairs,

Writing bad articles, signing bad papers,

Passing bad bills,

Bribing, blackmailing,

Whimpering, meeching, garroting,—they

Knew and acted

understood and died.

Or if they did not die came home to peace

That is not peace. Say of them

They are no longer young, they never learned

The arts, the stealth of peace, this peace, the tricks of fear;

And what they knew, they know.

And what they dared, they dare.


Genevieve Taggard (1894-1948), USA, March 1941


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