Amy Lowell

"In the Stadium--
Marshall Joffre Reviewing The Harvard
Regiment, May 12, 1917"

A little old man
Huddled up in a corner of a carriage,
Rapidly driven in front of throngs of people
With his hand held to a perpetual salute.
The people cheer,
But he has heard so much cheering.
On his breast is a row of decorations.
He feels his body recoil before attacks of pain.

They are all like this:
Great Caesar even,
But that he died out of time.
Sick old men,
Driving rapidly before a concourse of people,
Gay with decorations,
Crumpled with pain.

The drum-major lifts his silver-beaded stick,
And the silver trumpets and tubas,
The great round drums,
Each with an H on them,
Crash out martial music.
Heavily rhythmed march music
For the stepping of a regiment.

Slant lines of rifles,
A twinkle of stepping,
The regiment comes.
The young regiment,
Boys in khaki
With slanted rifles.
The young bodies of boys
Bulwarked in front of us.
The white bodies of young men
Heaped like sandbags
Against the German guns.

This is war:
Boys flung into a breach
Like shoveled earth;
And old men,
Driving rapidly before crowds of people
In a glitter of silly decorations.

Behind the boys
And the old men,
Life weeps,
And shreds her garments
To the blowing winds.


This is set at the entry of the United States into World War I.

The great and glorious general, Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre is "crumpled with pain." So, indeed, he is not as glorious as he appears. This poem is taking place at Harvard, which is why the drums have an ‘H’ on them.  Although American losses were small due to its late entry, an entire generation of European young men died in the war.  No longer could glory be achieved in war - it was too deadly.  The only way to survive was to hide in the trenches.  To charge the other side was certain death because of the effectiveness of modern weapons.  World War I is the last time that the best and brightest marched off to war in search of a desparate glory.  There was no Harvard Regiment during the Vietnam War.

Joffre had retired from his command in the French army in December of 1916. He was here to generate support in America for involvement in the war.  America had a tradition of not getting into European wars.

The shredding of garments mentioned in the poem is a sign of mourning. This is the last time the country’s elite will line up to enlist to fight a war. Too many die in modern warfare.

Heaped like sandbags
Against the German guns.