JANUARY 27, 1944
DETROIT, Wednesday—Today I want to tell you a story and reprint a poem.
The girl to whom the poem was written became engaged on November 13, 1942, to young Lieutenant S. J. Wright. He had majored in English at Dartmouth where his father is a professor of philosophy, and he wanted to make writing his career. Instead, the day after graduation in May, 1942, he went into the Marine Corps, and, after training in Quantico, was on his way to the South Pacific. Early this past fall the poem arrived enclosed in a letter to his girl. This poem represents the one fulfillment of his life's ambition. He was killed November 13, 1943, in action while attempting to knock out an enemy position so his men could advance.
To explain the last line of the poem, he wrote in his letter:
"This is for you, as you can plainly see, and so I want you to like it and understand it. That won't be difficult (the understanding)—until perhaps the last word which you may neither like nor understand. Selfishness in itself is not necessarily bad—it is too human for that. You would quickly say that our greatest want (or selfishness) is to be together again. Yet if you think, you'll realize even that selfishness is subordinate to the reason for fighting this war. But we feel, and here we constantly do, that some great good must come from this. Which is why I am here and you're there. Maybe you like it better this way; although our selfishness (yours and mine) is undeniably uppermost in our hearts, we make an effort to keep it secondary in our minds. Do you see that compared to the fight it is selfishness?"
The poem, which I reprint by permission of The Ladies' Home Journal:
"A Marine to His Girl"
Up through the restless, worrying jungle
Into the heaven's shimmering light,
I lean my weight to the emptiness,
And reach strong over the ocean's arc,
Groping with care to where you are,
Into your windows where the dark
Cold wind swirls and cries your loneliness.
Achingly kiss your sweet soft lips,
But briefly, I am torn apart and above
And back to this island's positiveness.
You pray for the moment when something
More than my spirit returns, deeply know:
Tomorrow must be greater than our selfishness."
A challenge to us that last line!