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My Mother’s House

From The Sun, November 11, 1914. By H. H. Ewers, translated by Oscar Mueller.

My mother is an old lady,
Perhaps sixty or even more
(She does not like to speak about it)
My mother is a German woman,
Is only one of so many millions.

My mother’s house overlooks the Rhine,
It’s a gay house, it’s a free house,
It’s an artist’s house,
Resounding from laughing and gayety
During fifty years and more.

Now mother converted the gay house
Into a sad house, a hospital.
Sixteen beds did she give, and in each
Lies a soldier.

My old mother writes:

In your library
Among all your treasures
That you gathered in all parts of the world,
Among vases from China
And the heathen gods of the South Sea,
Among your Buddhas
And Shivas and Krishnas,
Lies a youthful chap
Fresh from high school,
Eighteen years old.
But he cannot see your treasures.
They stabbed out his eyes
In Loncin near Liège.

In your Indian Room
Lies a sergeant,
He was laughing today and jokingly tossed
Your little elephants of ivory.
He always says: “Soon will I return to the front.”
He is tightly strapped in bandages—
The day before yesterday they cut off
Both of his legs,
And he does not know it.

In the room decorated with my beloved Dutch,
The Teniers and Ostade, the Koekkoek and Verbockhoeven,
Lies, his right arm torn to pieces,
A lieutenant of dragoons.
He does not like the paintings, not knowing them.
So I bought him yesterday
A “Kaiser” picture and hung it over his bed.
You do not believe how glad it made him.

But in the adjoining room
With your ancestors
Lies a captain of the guard.
He is as pale as linen,
Sleeps all the time,
So much blood did he lose;
But, if he’s awake, he looks at the pictures
And says, “He over there surely fought
At Sedan in Eighteen-seventy,
And he at Grossgoerschen a hundred years ago,
And the old one over there with the braid,
He fought at Leuthen.”

In the terrace room, the one to the left,
Lies another lieutenant, he asked that his bed
Be placed close to the window.
He never speaks, but stares all the time
Into our garden, and the monastery adjoining
Where the old monks are walking.
He has a bride, she was in Paris
When the war broke out—and she disappeared
And he heard of her—nothing.
Perhaps she is dead, he thinks, perhaps—
Perhaps—Then he sighs and groans:
“Perhaps.” And he kisses her picture.
She was very beautiful,
His poor, German bride.

In the garden room lies a major,
He is scolding all day long,
Shot through the abdomen, must be very painful,
And he does not suffer so much, if he can scold
The Russ, the Jap and the damned English.
So I ask him, “How do you feel?”
He always says, “The damned rats
Bit a hole into my stomach.”

There is one, in the small guest room,
A senior lieutenant of the Eighty-second,
He’s shot in the head
But not very dangerous.
He said yesterday, “Doctor,
I have fifty thousand marks;
They are yours if you patch me up
So I can return to the front
In three weeks.” (That’s what they all think.)

In your bedroom lies a hussar.
He has nineteen wounds, all over,
From shrapnel fire.
They brought him unconscious a fortnight ago.
He groans much and yells loud;
Never awoke once
In all that time.
But his hot hand clinches
His Iron Cross.
The doctor says, “We surely
Will save him, if he does not die
From starvation.”

In the dining room lie three.
A pioneer and two of the infantry.
Such dear blond chaps,
They will be saved,
But the pioneer
Is doomed.
For dumdum wounds
Are difficult to heal.

About everything writes my mother,
About the uhlans in the breakfast room,
The two chasseurs in the parlor,
The general,
Who lies in the state room—
About everything writes old mother,
But about herself
She does not say a word.

My mother’s house overlooks the Rhine,
Is now a hospital for sixteen,
And yet is only one such house
Of many thousands in Germany.

My mother is an old lady,
Perhaps sixty or even more.
My mother is a German woman,
And yet only one of so many millions.

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