Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Tears, Idle Tears!
By Arthur D. Rees
 
From “Volunteers”
Tom Shelley, Virginia

I WAS born in Ireland,
I’ve been in every country of the world,
I am an American citizen seventeen years,
I’m only thirty-nine years old;
And yet, in spite of all that,        5
The army won’t enlist me as a soldier
For the great war.
 
I’ve been a sailor over twelve years,
And can tell about the building of ships—
Ever since the first one was made        10
Of the hollow of a tree.
And still they won’t take me in—
This war is hard on me.
 
I can teach how to cut a dug-out canoe,
Or stretch one of skins;        15
I’ve sailed in a reed raft off Australia,
And in the surf boats of Madras;
I can help to build ships,
And explain how the keel of a vessel
Is only the old log minus the dugout.        20
Ask me why the fo’castle of old Egyptian ships
Was shaped up into a neck-like thing,
And finished off into the figure of a bird,
Or a beast?—
It was religion; that’s what it was.        25
I can tell all that,
And yet they won’t enlist me.
 
I can talk about paddle propulsion, galley oars,
Sail, steam and oil;
And there’s not a splice, eye-splice, chain-splice,        30
Or rigging shroud that I don’t know.
I’ve a union card too,
And yet I can’t make a hit.
 
I’ve been wrecked off the Brazilian coast,
Where the bay of the Amazon looks like another ocean,        35
And off the east coast of Ireland too,
Almost in sight of the rocks of Holyhead;
I know what sea power is, and that no man or nation
Will ever command the waves, for sea power
Is not from guns, but from winds.        40
I know everything I’ve said,
And yet I can’t get a show.
 
They take these young fellows—
Why can’t I enlist too?
I can do more, and I know more,        45
And I can stand more and fight more
In a day than any of them.
 
 
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