The Lament of the Demobilised

“‘Four years,’ some say consolingly. ‘Oh,well,

What’s that? You’re young. And then it must have been

A very fine experience for you!’

And they forget

How others stayed behind and just got on –

Got on the better since we were away.

And we came home and found

They had achieved, and men revered their names,

But never mentioned ours;

And no one talked heroics now, and we

Must just go back and start again once more.

‘You threw four years into the melting pot –

Did you indeed!’ these others cry. ‘Oh, well,

The more fool you!’

And we’re beginning to agree with them.”

Vera Brittain (Oxford Poetry, 1920)

[Vera Brittain lost her brother, her fiance and a number of dear friends during World War I; she herself gave up study at Oxford to become a nurse.]

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