Anthem for Doomed Youth

Writers and Literature of The Great War, 1914-1918

* Some exerpts from recent Patton biographies regarding the General's feelings about reincarnation, including his poem "Through a Glass Darkly":

At dinner, say, after grandly intoning Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier" ("If I should die, think only this of me/There is some corner in a foreign field/That is forever England" [sic]), Georgie [Patton] might offer his fond prediction that he would die in a foreign land, since, as Napoleon said, the boundaries of an empire are marked by the graves of her soldiers. Beatrice [Patton's wife] would nod, the fire in the fireplace would crackle significantly, and the meal would resume as the girls furtively eyed their father in expectation of his next trick.

If discussing reincarnation (one of his favorite topics), he would offer up as evidence pertinent bits of The Bhagavad Gita ("For sure is the death of him that is born, and sure the birth of him that is dead"), and his old standby, Revelations 3:12: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out." To these he added the fifth stanza of Papa's [Patton's father] favorite poem, Wordsworth's "Intimations" ode: "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,/The soul that rises with us, our life's Star,/Hath had elsewhere its setting/And cometh from afar." Clearly, Georgie said, Wordsworth shared his belief in reincarnation.

(Patton, The Pattons: A Portrait of an American Family, 198)

The best expression of his past lives appears in a lengthy poem written in 1922 Titled "Through a Glass Darkly," Patton demonstrates a powerful belief in God and alludes to earlier lives, the first of which may have been as a caveman. He even suggests that while Christ was on the cross

Perhaps I stabbed our Savior
In His sacred helpless side.
Yet I've called His name in blessing
When in after times I died.

(D'Este, Patton A Genius for War, 324)

More stanzas from this poem come from Patton, The Pattons: A Portrait of an American Family (the first and third stanzas reproduced here were quoted in the movie 1970 film Patton, starring George C. Scott):

Through the travail of the ages
Midst the pomp and toil of war
Have I fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star.

I have sinned and I have suffered
Played the hero and the knave
Fought for belly, shame or country
And for each have found a grave.

So as through a glass and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names -- but always me.


This most moving and complex of his poems concludes with the words:

So forever in the future
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter
But to die again once more.

(D'Este, Patton A Genius for War, 324)