Sonnets From a Prison

by JOHN BUXTON

“HOW DIETH THE WISE MAN? AS THE FOOL ALSO”

WHY should we praise or pity the senseless dead
Chosen haphazard by a splintering shell
Or the one bullet in ten thousand? Why tell
Heroic tales of them? We live instead
Simply because we crouched, or ducked our head
A second sooner, or because we fell
A yard this side of them. Oh! we know well
It was no plan of God’s when all is said.
Pity a man if he must kill: that’s vile
And not entailed in living, — that’s a taint
Only to be rinsed off us after death.
But dying, dying? Why, a man can smile
Even as he feels his leaping heart go faint,
Even as he wrings his lungs for one last breath.

OFLAG VII B
GERMANY

TO RIGMOR FONGNER

You will reject me when the war is done
And say, by fighting I did but betray
Myself and you, turn your proud head away
And bitterly blame me as if I had run
Unthinking to the war, who hoped I’d shun
This tawdry passion of killing. But, you’ll say,
My poems still ring true, — were I as they
Then greater things than battles I’d have won.
And I have done so. Here no word’s a lie.
I stripped my spirit naked to the war,
And what unknown I feared known now I hate,
But fear no longer. And how else should I
Make absolute the faith I held before?
How else to peace my whole life dedicate?

OFLAG VII B
GERMANY