Konstantin Simonov

The Child on the Gun Carriage

to Valentina Serova

The major brought the boy out on the carriage;
His mother had been killed, no time for tears.
A child for whom the last ten days of battle
In this world or the next will count as years.

They brought him from the fortress, Brest-Litovsk,
Bullets had scarred and scratched the battered gun;
His father had decided there was nowhere
A safer place of refuge for his son.

The gun was shattered and his father wounded
And fastened on, to hold him in the night,
The grey-haired child was sleeping on the carriage,
Holding his bedtime plaything to him tight.

We saw him sleeping as we came from Russia;
He woke, and waved, as troops went down the track.
You say that I should leave this job to others –
That I've been there and now I should come back.

You only know this misery from hearsay!
We saw it; and it broke our hearts, my friend!
Whoever saw that little child as we did
Cannot come home again until the end.

I have to see, with those same eyes that saw him –
Those eyes that wept there, in the dust of war –
I have to see that child come back there with us,
And kiss the ground on which he lived before.

For everything which you and I have valued,
The law of war insists we have to fight!
My home is now no longer where it was, dear -
It's where that child has lost his home tonight.

June 1941

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