You and You; To the American Private in the Great War

You and You; To the American Private in the Great War

by Edith Wharton



EVERY one of you won the war —
You and you and you —
Each one knowing what it was for,
And what was his job to do.


Every one of you won the war,
Obedient, unwearied, unknown,
Dung in the trenches, drift on the shore,
Dust to the world’s end blown;
Every one of you, steady and true,
You and you and you —
Down in the pit or up in the blue,
Whether you crawled or sailed or flew,
Whether your closest comrade knew
Or you bore the brunt alone —


All of you, all of you, name after name,
Jones and Robinson, Smith and Brown,
You from the piping prairie town,
You from the Fundy fogs that came,
You from the city’s roaring blocks,
You from the bleak New England rocks
With the shingled roof in the apple boughs,
You from the brown adobe house —
You from the Rockies, you from the Coast,
You from the burning frontier-post
And you from the Klondyke’s frozen flanks,
You from the cedar-swamps, you from the pine,
You from the cotton and you from the vine,
You from the rice and the sugar-brakes,
You from the Rivers and you from the Lakes,
You from the Creeks and you from the Licks
And you from the brown bayou —
You and you and you —
You from the pulpit, you from the mine,
You from the factories, you from the banks,
Closer and closer, ranks on ranks,
Airplanes and cannon, and rifles and tanks,
Smith and Robinson, Brown and Jones,
Ruddy faces or bleaching bones,
After the turmoil and blood and pain
Swinging home to the folks again
Or sleeping along in the fine French rain —
Every one of you won the war.


Every one of you won the war —
You and you and you —
Pressing and pouring forth, more and more,
Toiling and straining from shore to shore
To reach the flaming edge of the dark
Where man in his millions went up like a spark,
You, in your thousands and millions coming,
All the sea ploughed with you, all the air humming,
All the land loud with you,
All our hearts proud with you,
All our souls bowed with the awe of your coming!


Where’s the Arch high enough,
Lads, to receive you,
Where’s the eye dry enough,
Dears, to perceive you,
When at last and at last in your glory you come,
Tramping home?


Every one of you won the war,
You and you and you —
You that carry an unscathed head,
You that halt with a broken tread,
And oh, most of all, you Dead, you Dead!


Lift up the Gates for these that are last,
That are last in the great Procession.
Let the living pour in, take possession,
Flood back to the city, the ranch, the farm,
The church and the college and mill,
Back to the office, the store, the exchange,
Back to the wife with the babe on her arm,
Back to the mother that waits on the sill,
And the supper that’s hot on the range.


And now, when the last of them all are by,
Be the Gates lifted up on high
To let those Others in,
Those Others, their brothers, that softly tread,
That come so thick, yet take no ground,
That are so many, yet make no sound,
Our Dead, our Dead, our Dead!


O silent and secretly-moving throng,
In your fifty thousand strong,
Coming at dusk when the wreaths have dropt,
And streets are empty, and music stopt,
Silently coming to hearts that wait
Dumb in the door and dumb at the gate,
And hear your step and fly to your call —
Every one of you won the war,
But you, you Dead, most of all!


About the poem

“You and You; to the American private in the great war” was published in Scribner’s Magazine 65 on February 1919: 152-153. By Edith Wharton.


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