The General’s Breast

1918

The General’s breast was covered with ribbons
    Gained in the Great World War.
I could not but gaze in amaze at those ribbons
    And ask myself what they were for.

For the general had never been once in the trenches –
    Or even been once under fire.
He knew nothing of rats, or of lice, or the stenches
    That rise from dead limbs sticking out of the mire.

He had sat in a chateau, well back from the battle,
    And sent up his orders by phone,
Bidding us give up our lives for our Country,
    Without any gift of his own.

He had ordered great sorties, and when the survivors
    Got back to their billets for rest
They eyed with surprise yet another bright ribbon
    Adorning the General’s breast …

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