"The major brought the boy out on the gun;..."

Konstantin Simonov

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The major brought the boy out on the gun;
His mother dead, unwept, no time for tears.
He was a child for whom the last ten days
In this world or the next will count as years.

They brought him from the fortress, Brest-Litovsk,
Bullets had scarred and scratched the battered gun;
His father had decided there was nowhere
A safer place of refuge for his son.

The gun was shattered and the father wounded,
And fastened on, to hold him in the night,
The grey-faced child was sleeping on the carriage,
Holding his bedtime plaything to him tight.

We met him sleeping as we came from Russia;
He woke, and waved, as troops went down the track.
You say that I should leave this task to others -
That I've been there and now I should come back.

You only know this misery from hearsay!
We saw it, and our hearts will never mend!
Whoever saw that little boy's condition
Will not come home again until the end.

I have to see, with those same eyes that saw him -
- Those eyes that wept there, in the dust of war -
I have to see that child return there with us,
And kiss the ground on which he lived before.

For everything which you and I have valued,
The law of war insists we have to fight!
My home is now no longer where it was, dear -
It's where that child has lost his home tonight.

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