The Question

Also titled “The Neutral”
from Sea Warfare - Destroyers at Jutland

1916 1

Rudyard Kipling

BRETHREN, how shall it fare with me
    When the war is laid aside,
If it be proven that I am he
    For whom a world has died?

If it be proven that all my good,
    And the greater good I will make,
Were purchased me by a multitude
    Who suffered for my sake?

That I was delivered by mere mankind
    Vowed to one sacrifice,
And not, as I hold them, battle-blind,
    But dying with open eyes?

That they did not ask me to draw the sword
    When they stood to endure their lot—
That they only looked to me for a word,
    And I answered I knew them not?

If it be found, when the battle clears,
    Their death has set me free,
Then how shall I live with myself through the years
    Which they have bought for me?

Brethren, how must it fare with me,
    Or how am I justified,
If it be proven that I am he
    For whom mankind has died—
If it be proven that I am he
    Who, being questioned, denied?

1. Attitude of the United States of America during the
first two years, seven months and four days of the Great War.    [back]

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