General Patton’s Poetry “To Beatrice”

George Patton considered himself to “have a hell of a memory for poetry and war.” An astute student of military history, he could also conjure up a poem appropriate to any situation. Raised on the verses of Kipling and Homer, during times of war when he couldn’t sleep, George liked to pick up the pen and write poetry to cheer and inspire himself. Many a letter to Beatrice during the Mexican Punitive Expedition and WWI included a sheet of poetry, imploring her not to lose it as “they may be priceless some day.”

In 1919, Beatrice tested that premise and sent a compilation of her husband’s poems to a publisher. She prefaced the work with a disclaimer from the anonymous author: “These rhymes were written (over a period of years) for his own amusement by a man who having seen something of war is more impressed with the manly virtues it engenders than with the necessary and much exaggerated horrors attendant upon it. They are offered to the public in the hope that they may counteract to a degree the melancholy viewpoint so freely expatiated upon by most writers.”

George’s vivid imagery describing both the horrors and glories of war were not appreciated in 1919 and Beatrice’s proposal was rejected, but all that changed during WWII when General Patton gained fame and reporters clamored for any piece of information they could get on him. Beatrice took advantage of the opportunity and renewed her effort to publish George’s work, knowing how much it would mean to him. She couldn’t believe her luck when Woman’s Home Companion paid $50 in October 1943 to print “God of Battles,” followed by Cosmopolitan in early 1945, which published “Fear.”

Collier’s, however, declined to print “The Song of the Bayonet,” explaining to Beatrice that “nothing more should be printed that will revive the “Old Blood and Guts” legend.” Yet there was a more sensitive side to George which was reserved just for Beatrice.

"To Beatrice" 
(Written during the Mexican Punitive Expedition in October 1916.)

Oh! loveliest of women,
What ere I gain or do,
Is naught if in achieving,
I bring not joy to you.

I know I often grieve you,
All earthly folk are frail,
But if this grief I knowing wrought,
My life’s desire would fail.

The mandates of stern duty,
Oft takes us far apart,
But space is impotent to check,
The heart which calls to heart.
Perhaps by future hidden,
Some greatness waits in store,
If so, the hope your praise to gain,
Shall make my efforts more.

For victory apart from you,
Would be an empty gain,
A laurel crown you could not share,
Would be reward in vain.

You are my inspiration,
Light of my brain and soul,
Your guiding love by night or day,
Will keep my valor whole.

"To Your Picture" 
(Written "To a picture just received from Beatrice" in France on June 25, 1918.)

Your picture here before me shows too well,
The sweetness which I know is latent there,
The pleading torment of your laughing eyes,
The maddening rapture of your glorious hair.

Shown without color, flat, and without breath
Your subtle charm yet gives the picture life,
And makes the cardboard throb and thrill again
With those dear passions which are yours - my wife.

Though distance parts us with the heaving sea.
And Time essays to dull your face and form.
The last is impotent to blind my eyes.
And your dear self shines clear through the storm.

Though I have naught of you but thoughts to cheer
Your spirit aides me in the throbbing strife.
And aught I do I do for you alone;
You, my one love, my body and my life. 

"The Vision" 
(Written in Colonia Dublan, Mexico, in January 1917.)

Fiercely the squadron followed,
Trampling the withered grass,
And I heard the clatter as men went down,
And the hiss of the shots that pass.

And then one came before its sound,
I fell for an endless way,
Till a mighty calm engulfed me,
And I woke to a clearer day.

The dust no longer choked me;
The charge seethed far ahead.
A limp form lay beneath my mare;
Its face was mine and - - dead.

I looked at the thing which I had been; —
The blood oozed from its face —
At the sword I had known so well to use,
Now limp in death’s embrace.

I thought complacently of fame,
And how I had broken the foe;
But then I thought with gripping pain,
Of those I loved - - their woe.

As I mused the miles had vanished;
I stood in my childhood’s home,
While she I loved stood near me;
Yet knew not I had come.

I tried to speak and warn her,
But only my dogs could hear,
They sought to lick my viewless hands,
Then howling fled in fear.

I saw the smile upon her lips,
While the flowers bloomed beside;
I could not bear that she should hear,
That I had really died.

My thirst for glory faded then,
Before unselfish love;
I prayed to live for her - - not fame,
They say my stunned mare moved.

Her struggles caught a searcher’s eye;
They carried me away,
And when I woke days later,
T’was near my love I lay.

"Rubber Shoes" 
(Written in Champlieu, France, on November 26, 1917, after finding Beatrice's shoes hiding in the car he had shipped over from the US.)

While searching in my motor car
To get a can of grease
I came upon some rubber shoes
The shoes of Beatrice.

You who have never met her
Of course can hardly know
The train of deep emotions
Those rubbers set aglow.

For gazing on them brought to mind
The picture of her feet
And dainty legs in stockings trim
Duck walking up the street.

The memory of her cunningness
And of her crooked tooth
The tragic thought that far from her
I’d passed the half our youth.

So picking up the grease can
I sadly turned aside 
And jammed a hub cap full of goo
My woeful thoughts to hide.

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