Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

I'm a great fan of Housman, but find the "mercenary" sobriquet a tad insulting. Reasons for doing the hard things are myriad, but mostly you do them for your fellows, and money barely enters into the equation. I prefer Tommy Atkins in this case... "For it's Tommy this, and Tommy that, and chuck him out, the brute..."

Posted by Casca at November 13, 2014 9:24 AM

God damn those who teach children to kill others. That's not a child's job. The teachers should do their own killing and their own dying.
And, goddam [no insult intended], we're each someone's child.
Teach your children well.

Posted by Howard Nelson at November 13, 2014 2:41 PM

Extra-ordinary actions beget extra ordinary measures. I remember when I lived in a high-rise in NYC. My bedroom window looked down upon a city park, where on the corner drug dealers set up shop every evening. I always remarked at the fact their were toddlers present, often as late as midnight and early morning. I could never figure out why anyone would do such a thing. One evening I was fortunate enough to be at the window when the police rolled up, and then I understood. A very tough job these men have, God bless them.

Posted by Will at November 14, 2014 4:15 AM

Howard, as unpleasant as it may appear, going against spiritual principles that you and I and many others espouse in Christianity,
the only solution for the Muslim threat is to kill every last one of them, their families, their friends, their neighbors;
to lay waste to their crop lands and salt their wells, to destroy their buildings such that no two stones lay atop one another.

The justification, if one is needed, is that the Muslims are Evil.

I don't recall Jesus ever turning the other cheek on Satan.

Posted by chasmatic at November 14, 2014 5:21 AM

Thanks for the hat tip. I would point out that in the last stanza there is no "the" before the word "earth's" and in the next line it should read "What God abandoned..." rather than "When."
Let me also say, as a Christian, that I am inclined to agree with chasmatic's dire observation.

Posted by Ralph Kinney Bennett at November 14, 2014 5:49 AM

Right you are, Ralph. I was a fool to trust the libprog cesspit of "The Poetry Foundation."

Posted by vanderleun at November 14, 2014 9:25 AM

This ten-year-old post on my now-moribund blog explains what Housman meant: British troops had been called 'mercenaries' in German propaganda, since they were (at the beginning of the war) volunteers while Germans were draftees. Housman is defending the British troops with irony directed at the German propagandists.

My argument is entirely derivative, but gives quotations from the source and bibliographical reference.

Posted by Dr Weevil at November 14, 2014 6:40 PM

Dr. Weevil is correct. Most of Housman's "war poems" were written long before World War I. But this particular poem was written after the war and referred to the "Old Contemptibles," the British regular Army, those "Kips who put their foot in the door" before the Germans could close it.

Posted by Ralph Kinney Bennett at November 14, 2014 8:54 PM