Poetry for Saturday

It’s Pearl Harbor Day.

Both of my grandfathers went to war after Pearl Harbor.  One to Europe, where free time was spent playing baseball.  When asked what he did during the war, he would often retort, “I pitched.”  My other grandfather went to the South Pacific, to the largest of the (still rather small) Solomon Islands: a rather infamous place called Guadalcanal.  I have a small photograph dated 1942 that depicts my grandpa at my age, shirtless, dog-tagged, grinning, stirring a cauldron with jungle for background.  “Doing laundry,” is scrawled across the photograph.

This week’s poem isn’t about Pearl Harbor or World War II specifically, but it’s about young men going away to war.

The Spires of Oxford, Winifred M. Letts (1917)

I SAW the spires of Oxford
As I was passing by,
The gray spires of Oxford
Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Oxford men
Who went abroad to die.

The years go fast in Oxford,
The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
On careless boys at play.
But when the bugles sounded war
They put their games away.

They left the peaceful river,
The cricket-field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Oxford,
To seek a bloody sod—
They gave their merry youth away
For country and for God.

God rest you, happy gentlemen,
Who laid your good lives down,
Who took the khaki and the gun
Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
Than even Oxford town.

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