Eighth Air Force

By Randall Jarrell 1914–1965 Randall Jarrell
If, in an odd angle of the hutment,
A puppy laps the water from a can
Of flowers, and the drunk sergeant shaving   
Whistles O Paradiso!—shall I say that man   
Is not as men have said: a wolf to man?

The other murderers troop in yawning;   
Three of them play Pitch, one sleeps, and one   
Lies counting missions, lies there sweating   
Till even his heart beats: One; One; One.
O murderers! ... Still, this is how it’s done:

This is a war.... But since these play, before they die,   
Like puppies with their puppy; since, a man,
I did as these have done, but did not die—
I will content the people as I can
And give up these to them: Behold the man!

I have suffered, in a dream, because of him,   
Many things; for this last saviour, man,
I have lied as I lie now. But what is lying?
Men wash their hands, in blood, as best they can:   
I find no fault in this just man.

Randall Jarrell, “Eighth Air Force” from The Complete Poems. Copyright © 1969, renewed 1997 by Mary von S. Jarrell. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: The Complete Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)

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Poet Randall Jarrell 1914–1965

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Fugitive

Subjects War & Conflict, Social Commentaries

Holidays Memorial Day

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Randall  Jarrell

Biography

Best known as a literary critic but also respected as a poet, Randall Jarrell was noted for his acerbic, witty, and erudite criticism. In a volume of essays about Jarrell titled Randall Jarrell, 1914-1965, nearly all of the writers praised his critical faculties. They also noted, commented Stephen Spender in the New York Review of Books, "a cruel streak in Jarrell when he attacked poets he didn't like." John Berryman wrote that . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Fugitive

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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