I may have mentioned I have been reading an excellent volume, The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: Poems for Men. I come upon poem after poem that demands and commands my attention. I so much like this book that I purchased four copies, one for each son and one for my son-in-law.
Last week I read an intense ‘poem’ by Mark Twain, “The War Prayer.” I am surprised that I have never read it before. A bit of wiki research reveals that the piece was not published until after Mr. Twain’s death. He had been advised not to publish it due to its controversial topic. The first link in this paragraph will take you to the entire “The War Prayer” piece as written by Mr. Twain; the second link will explain the background.
A few days ago, I asked a good friend to read it. She read it with raised eyebrows. “He only presents one side of the story,” she commented. The back of the church was no place for controversy, so I let the comment pass. All the while, I was thinking, “There is no other side.” Here is the prayer. You decide.
Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —
For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.