He had volunteered early, rather than waiting to be conscripted, for he felt a duty and an obligation to serve, and believed that... being willing to fight for his country and the liberty it represented, would make some small difference... His idealism was one of the casualties of the carnage [of Verdun].
The macabre who lived through the war have a story they loved to tell about the soldiers of the Foreign Legion giving a ball in the expanses around Verdun and dancing with the corpses. Alabama's continued brewing of the poisoned filter for a semiconscious banquet table, her insistence on the magic and glamor of life when she was already feeling its pulse like the throbbing of an amputated leg, had something of the same sinister quality.
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work- I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor: What place is this? Where are we now? I am the grass. Let me work.
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work- I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg. And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, ten years,and passengers ask the conductor- What place is this? Where are we now? I am the grass. Let me work.