Wilfred Owen (1893–1918)

Smile, Smile, Smile

Wilfred Owen

Head to limp head, the sunk-eyed wounded scanned
Yesterday’s Mail; the casualties (typed small)
And (large) Vast Booty from our Latest Haul.
Also, they read of Cheap Homes, not yet planned,
‘For’, said the paper, ‘when this war is done (5)
The men’s first instincts will be making homes.
Meanwhile their foremost need is aerodromes,
It being certain war has but begun.
Peace would do wrong to our undying dead,—
The sons we offered might regret they died (10)
If we got nothing lasting in their stead.
We must be solidly indemnified.
Though all be worthy Victory which all bought,
We rulers sitting in this ancient spot
Would wrong our very selves if we forgot (15)
The greatest glory will be theirs who fought,
Who kept this nation in integrity.’
Nation?—The half-limbed readers did not chafe
But smiled at one another curiously
Like secret men who know their secret safe. (20)
(This is the thing they know and never speak,
That England one by one had fled to France,
Not many elsewhere now, save under France.)
Pictures of these broad smiles appear each week,
And people in whose voice real feeling rings (25)
Say: How they smile! They’re happy now, poor things.

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