Cadets of the graduating class -- boys -- I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is hell!
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.
And pile them high at GettysburgAnd pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.Shovel them under and let me work.Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this? Where are we now?
I am the grass. Let me work.
A great and glorious thing it is
To learn, for seven years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe—
The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear: “All flesh is grass.”
Three hundred pounds per annum spent
On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in “villanous saltpetre!”
And after—ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our ’ologies.
A scrimmage in a Border Station—
A canter down some dark defile—
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail—
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!
No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow
Strike hard who cares—shoot straight who can—
The odds are on the cheaper man.
One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.
With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troop-ships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.
The “captives of our bow and spear”
Are cheap—alas! as we are dear.
There is an abundant scholarship that has definitively demonstrated that Imperial Germany used the Sarajevo assassination as a pretext to wage a carefully planned preventive war and sabotaged all efforts to reach a peaceful solution of the crisis. But this interpretation has never advanced beyond the professional journals and scholarly monographs to challenge the “blundering into Armageddon, all were guilty” thesis, which continues to hold pride of place in the public imagination.
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