God! How I Hate You, You Young Cheerful Men! by Arthur Graeme West

On a University Undergraduate moved to verse by the war.

Phrases from H. Rex Feston’s “Quest of Truth”: Poems on Doubt, War, Sorrow, Despair, Hope, Death, Somewhere in France. He was killed in action and was an undergraduate at Exeter.

His attitude is that God is good, amused, rather, at us fighting. “Oh, happy to have lived these epic days,” he writes (of us). This (he had been three years at Oxford) is his address to the Atheists:

“ I know that God will never let me die.
He is too passionate and intense for that.
See how He swings His great suns through the sky,
See how He hammers the proud-faced mountains flat;
He takes a handful of a million years
And flings them at the planets; or He throws
His red stars at the moon; then with hot tears
He stoops to kiss one little earth-born rose.
Don’t nail God down to rules, and think you know!
Or God, Who sorrows all a summer’s day
Because a blade of grass has died, will come
And suck this world up in His Iips, and lo!
Will spit it out a pebble, powdered grey,
Into the whirl of Infinity s nothingless foam.'”

This ruined the reputation of all English Atheists for months!

God! How I hate you, you young cheerful men,
Whose pious poetry blossoms on your graves
As soon as you are in them, nurtured up
By the salt of your corruption, and the tears
Of mothers, local vicars, college deans,
And flanked by prefaces and photographs
From all you minor poet friends—the fools—
Who paint their sentimental elegies
Where sure, no angel treads; and, living, share
The dead’s brief immortality

Oh Christ!
To think that one could spread the ductile wax
Of his fluid youth to Oxford’s glowing fires
And take her seal so ill! Hark how one chants—
“Oh happy to have lived these epic days”—
“These epic days”! And he’d been to France,
And seen the trenches, glimpsed the huddled dead
In the periscope, hung in the rusting wire:
Choked by their sickly fœtor, day and night
Blown down his throat: stumbled through ruined hearths,
Proved all that muddy brown monotony,
Where blood’s the only coloured thing. Perhaps
Had seen a man killed, a sentry shot at night,
Hunched as he fell, his feet on the firing-step,
His neck against the back slope of the trench,
And the rest doubled up between, his head
Smashed like and egg-shell, and the warm grey brain
Spattered all bloody on the parados:
Had flashed a torch on his face, and known his friend,
Shot, breathing hardly, in ten minutes—gone!
Yet still God’s in His heaven, all is right
In the best possible of worlds. The woe,
Even His scaled eyes must see, is partial, only
A seeming woe, we cannot understand.
God loves us, God looks down on this out strife
And smiles in pity, blows a pipe at times
And calls some warriors home. We do not die,
God would not let us, He is too “intense,”
Too “passionate,” a whole day sorrows He
Because a grass-blade dies. How rare life is!
On earth, the love and fellowship of men,
Men sternly banded: banded for what end?
Banded to maim and kill their fellow men—
For even Huns are men. In heaven above
A genial umpire, a good judge of sport,
Won’t let us hurt each other! Let’s rejoice
God keeps us faithful, pens us still in fold.
Ah, what a faith is ours (almost, it seems,
Large as a mustard-seed)—we trust and trust,
Nothing can shake us! Ah, how good God is
To suffer us to be born just now, when youth
That else would rust, can slake his blade in gore,
Where very God Himself does seem to walk
The bloody fields of Flanders He so loves!

From: West, Arthur Graeme, The Diary of a Dead Officer, being the posthumous papers of Arthur Graeme West, 1918, G. Allen & Unwin, Ltd: London, pp. 79-81.
(https://archive.org/details/diaryofdeadoffic00westrich/)

Date: 1918 (published)

By: Arthur Graeme West (1891-1917)

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