My Old Sweet Etcetera – A Reading

My Sweet Old Etcetera ee cummings

For Eleanor

This anti war poem, written by American poet EE Cummings and published in 1926, is such a perfect specimen of the genre.

The speaker lies, perhaps dying, in the horrific, mud filled trenches of Northern France. The rest of his family plays the jingoistic game so favored at the time by those who went nowhere near those killing fields.

His mother wishes him a death of glory, his father claims he would willingly have sacrificed himself on that futile, cruel cross.

Barking mad old Aunt Lucy believes she knows just what her nephew is fighting for.

And the sacrificed boy, one of the millions, lies in the filth dreaming of his girlfriend and her etcetera.

I have sworn recently not to get angry anymore but reading such verse makes it a hard task to forswear criticism.

General Melchetts all, and worse still the politicians, emperors and business people who let such futility occur in the name of patriotism, commerce and empire.  But enough. There is beauty and sadness here in equal measure. Enjoy the poem for what it is and pray for peace.

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