“At least it wasn’t your fault” I hear them console
When they come back, the few that will come back.
I feel those handshakes now. “Well, on the whole
You didn’t miss much. I wish I had your knack
Of stopping out. You still can call your soul
Your own, at any rate. What a priceless slack
You’ve had, old chap. It must have been top-hole.
How’s poetry? I bet you’ve written a stack.”
What shall I say? That it’s been damnable?
That all the time my soul was never my own?
That we’ve slaved hard at endless make-believe?
It isn’t only actual war that’s hell,
I’ll say. It’s spending youth and hope alone
Among pretences that have ceased to deceive.
–Geoffrey Faber (1889-1961)