The Jewish Conscript

Original Text: 
Poetry: A Magazine of Verse 5 (Nov. 1914): 66.
There are nearly a quarter of a million Jews in the Czar's army alone. (Newspaper clipping)
1They have dressed me up in a soldier's dress,
2    With a rifle in my hand,
3And have sent me bravely forth to shoot
5Oh, many shall die for their fields and homes,
6    And many in conquest wild,
7But I shall die for the fatherland
8    That murdered my little child.
9How many hundreds of years ago --
10    The nations wax and cease! --
11Did the God of our fathers doom us to bear
12    The flaming message of peace!
13We are the mock and the sport of time!
14    Yet why should I complain! --
15For a Jew that they hung on the bloody cross,
16    He also died in vain.

Notes

4] Universal conscription in Russia brought Jews into the army at the beginning of World War I, but Russian army commanders suspected them of treason and spying for Germany. As a result, between half a million to a million Russian Jews were deported and interned during the war, and their property seized. See Eric Lorh, "The Russian Army and the Jews: Mass Deportation, Hostages, and Violence during World War I," The Russian Review 60.3 (July 2001): 404-19. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1914
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2005
Rhyme: 
Form: