Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Soldier poets of the Great War (II): Some soldierly lines of concentrated thought

This epitaph by H.W. Garrod, consisting of just two lines, strikes me as "soldierly" — disciplined and brief. The second line is especially concentrated. I think it was Sen. James Webb who once observed that poetry is like combat in that poetry is compressed thought and combat is compressed action. Tell them at home, there’s ...

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This epitaph by H.W. Garrod, consisting of just two lines, strikes me as "soldierly" -- disciplined and brief. The second line is especially concentrated. I think it was Sen. James Webb who once observed that poetry is like combat in that poetry is compressed thought and combat is compressed action.

Tell them at home, there's nothing here to hide;

We took our orders, asked no questions, died.

This epitaph by H.W. Garrod, consisting of just two lines, strikes me as "soldierly" — disciplined and brief. The second line is especially concentrated. I think it was Sen. James Webb who once observed that poetry is like combat in that poetry is compressed thought and combat is compressed action.

Tell them at home, there’s nothing here to hide;

We took our orders, asked no questions, died.

Here’s another soldierly quartet of lines, from F.W.D. Bendall:

Sentry, sentry, what did you say

As you watched alone till break of day?

I prayed the Lord that I’d fire straight

If I saw the man that killed my mate.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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