(On WWI:)A man of importance had been shot at a place I could not pronounce in Swahili or in English, and, because of this shooting, whole countries were at war. It seemed a laborious method of retribution, but that was the way it was being done. ...A messenger came to the farm with a story to tell. It was not a story that meant much as stories went in those days. It was about how the war progressed in German East Africa and about a tall young man who was killed in it. ... It was an ordinary story, but Kibii and I, who knew him well, thought there was no story like it, or one as sad, and we think so now.The young man tied his shuka on his shoulder one day and took his shield and his spear and went to war. He thought war was made of spears and shields and courage, and he brought them all.But they gave him a gun, so he left the spear and the shield behind him and took the courage, and went where they sent him because they said this was his duty and he believed in duty. ...He took the gun and held it the way they had told him to hold it, and walked where they told him to walk, smiling a little and looking for another man to fight.He was shot and killed by the other man, who also believed in duty, and he was buried where he fell. It was so simple and so unimportant.But of course it meant something to Kibii and me, because the tall young man was Kibii's father and my most special friend. Arab Maina died on the field of action in the service of the King. But some said it was because he had forsaken his spear.
France is to me the heroine in the romance of all the nations of all time. This feeling was born in me years ago when I read how her noble sons had defended America in its cradle. Today I am proud that I am one of the millions who will come to save our heroine from the clutches of the villain from across the Rhine.
If you can walk with the crowd and keep your virtue, or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch; If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run- Yours is the earth and everything that's in it, And-which is more-you'll be a man my son.
This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.
He had volunteered early, rather than waiting to be conscripted, for he felt a duty and an obligation to serve, and believed that ... being willing to fight for his country and the liberty it represented, would make some small difference. ... His idealism was one of the casualties of the carnage [of Verdun].
He saw the delicate blades of grass which the bodies of his comrades had fertilized; he saw the little shoots on the shell-shocked trees. He saw the smoke-puffs of shrapnel being blown about by light breezes. He saw birds making love in the wire that a short while before had been ringing with flying metal. He heard the pleasant sounds of larks up there, near the zenith of the trajectories. He smiled a little. There was something profoundly saddening about it. It all seemed so fragile and so absurd.
As one soldier wrote to his wife in November 1916: 'Everyone pretends that the war will end soon, that the longed-for peace will arrive, but that is only to keep their spirits up. People are so worn out and destroyed, they have suffered so much, that's all they can do to stop their hearts from breaking and to keep themselves from losing their mind ... Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I don't understand the mood of the men and it only seems to me like this because I myself am exhausted and have come to realize in the past few days that I may lose my own mind in all this chaos ... Liulya, I have written all this to you so that you may understand what sort of a man you love.