June 9, 1944
Dear Lela & Dan-- 1
Terry took Meg and Nancy to New York this evening to see Othello, and Mab is in town too, so I am alone here with Hesper, who has finally gone to bed. Your letter, with the enclosed copy of Lt. Corpenning's, came this morning, and all day I've been carrying it around with me--not wanting to show it to the children or even talk about it. I'm no good at such a time as this. All I can feel or say is just a dumb misery. And that was one reason why it wouldn't have helped for me to go out and see you. The terrible necessity of the invasion and what our boys have to go through has got me down. Leland Stowe2 said something on the radio tonight that came near what seems like the truth to me. He said, why is it that the living never seem to be worthy of their dead? I feel so unworthy. And the nation around me seems so far from knowing or perceiving what is being given and done for us. We shall remain a free nation because of this bloody business they go through, and a good life isn't possible except in a free nation, but we're not cleansed, we're not dedicated, we're not better, any of us, for what the boys have gone through to save our freedom. They're cleansed and dedicated. That was in Keith's letter. 3 But then look at the political jockeying, and the race prejudice and the small damnable envies that run all through our free society. Are we saved so that we can go on being like that? Even the army--perhaps the army, most of all--has learned, and will learn nothing from its dead. Perhaps some learn. A few come out of it knowing what was given and how much it meant. --But there was that wonderful statement of the Gettysburg address--and after it the horrible mess of carpet-bagging and the Grant administration. Men go on bartering over the fresh graves.
I tried writing a poem for Keith, but it wasn't within a million miles of what I wanted to say. So I gave it up. 4 --I shall send that address to Alan at once. He's somewhere south of Rome still, and might by chance know or be able to find out something.
This is a silly kind of letter to write.***5 [Terry] spoke about wanting to write to you--but sat looking at the paper a while and couldn't say anything. He said one thing--you either give everything or you have it pretty easy. There's nothing in between.