Letters from Oregon Boys in France
Compiled by Mrs. Frank Wilmot 1918
Henry O. Stevens
I will drop you a few more lines. You will find in this letter another of Herbert G. McDonald's poems. You see when we can't express ourselves, we go to him and get him to express our thoughts in poetry. I told him and let him read your letter, so you may see and understand more than I could have made you understand. Mother, you take this to the Record Chieftain and have it printed in the paper, and let them know who sent it and just what kind of men make up Co. A, 3rd Regt. of Engineers. McDonald is a fine fellow and one of my best friends in the army and for my sake and yours he wrote these lines, so you would look at things in a different way. He is sending one to his own mother at Boise, Idaho. So you cheer up even if I can't be with you for awhile yet.
Each throbbing line of love you write to me,
My heart grows sad, and oft I count the days
Until at last, I'll sail o'er the sea,
Back, to you and home and all I love.
And once I curse the Fate that placed me here;
But lo! I caught a vision from above
That stilled my heart with patience, mother dear.
Before, my thoughts were dark with fancy wrongs,
Of plans miscarried and of work undone.
I heard faint echos of the old home - songs,
And glimpsed your loving faces, one by one.
I knew your troubles, that I could not ease,
I suffered at the worry in your heart.
I longed to rest my head upon your knees,
And feel my bitter loneliness depart.
To me, the war had brought but bitterness,
Brought discipline - that cut me to the raw -
And acts unjust, that promised no redress
Beneath the changeless military law.
All thought the days, I heard the homing-call,
I saw your pleading eyes and heard your voice.
I prayed to come, and cheer you all,
And in reunion let our hearts rejoice.
All useless seemed the changeless game we played,
Of endless labor - unremitting drill.
It seemed 'twould be far better had I stayed
At home with you, who love and need me still.
And then I caught a vision from the skies
Of WHY we fight and suffer, and are sad;
I saw the reason for our sacrifice,
And seeing, lo, my heart grew strong and glad
That I was in the ranks to fight and die;
If need be, for the millions yet unborn;
I saw the Belgian woman, as they lie
The spoils of hunish lust, undone and torn;
Their children lifting mutilated arms,
And babes caught upon the bayonet,
And aged mothers slaving on the farms
To feed the German hordes unconquered yet.
I saw the helpless, sinking in the waves,
While German sailors laughed to see them die.
I saw a row of new made baby graves,
And distant aircraft, slinking in the sky.
I saw the towns of desolated France,
The fruiting trees destroyed, in senseless hate.
Oh, mother, these things I saw, as in a trance,
And others that my lips dare not relate!
Oh, think if we had lived in Belgium then,
If France had been our home - Oh, God on high,
To picture YOU, the toy of brutish men,
Our home destroyed, my loved ones left to die!
I see - I see, at last the reason why
We must forget the little things of life,
And dry our tears and stifle every cry,
Whatever pain may issue from the strife;
Why we must battle on, with ne'er a thought
But Victory; nor stop to count the cost
Until a sweeter liberty is wrought
From out the old, which was so nearly lost!
My mother, cheer your heart and dry your tears,
For afterawhile - God willing - I'll return;
We sacrificed today, that through the years
We may enjoy the peace for which we yearn.
Forget all little cares, all minor things;
Today we labor, and tomorrow, rest;
We fight for every mother, as she sings
Her babe to sleep upon her throbbing breast;
We battle for the Womanhood of Earth -
For Liberty - for Honor and for Right;
Be proud, Oh, mother dear, that you gave birth
To one who lived to enter such a fight!