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Poetic License: ‘Did I See Versailles . . .?’

By Staff | Mar 18, 2015

When 20-year old Robert Hilliard, now a Sanibel resident, returned home from Europe after World War II as a Purple Heart combat infantry veteran, he found that many people had no inkling of what war was like. He wrote the following at that time as an imagined conversation with one of those people.

“Did I See Versailles . . .?”

Did I see Versailles and the Eiffel Tower,

DeGaulle or Patton or Eisenhower?

Don’t know as I did, sir, I spent my time

right up front on the firing line

where we only saw mud that reached our knees

and our skin would crack and our feet would freeze.

Where there were no cities or generals,

just rubble and dirt and sickening smells.

There were no chateaus, no sights to pick .

I’m sorry, sir, just damned Krauts to lick.

Did I see the castles upon the Rhine

or the blue Danube that flowed like wine?

The only rivers that I saw there

were the rivers of blood while men would swear

and bind their wounds and wait for aid

and live . . . and wait for aid and die . . . afraid.

Our castles were deep, four feet or so

out of frozen earth and filled with snow

and rocks and dirt that the shells would flick.

We were busy, sir. Damned Krauts to lick.

Did I see the fields and the small canals

and the snow-capped peaks of the tow’ring Alps?

Yes, I saw the fields with their many dead

and the fresh green grass that was now blood red,

and the streets and paths with their waiting mines,

and the booby-traps of the German swine.

I looked on high for the Alps, but found

only bloody pieces of men on the ground.

I saw them, sir: hell and death so quick.

You see, sir, we had the damned Krauts to lick.

Robert Hilliard

P.O. Box 1144

Sanibel, FL 33957