Lift not thy trumpet, Victory, to the sky,
Nor through battalions nor by batteries blow,
But over hollows full of old wire go,
Where among dregs of war the long-dead lie
With wasted iron that the guns passed by.
When they went eastwards like a tide at flow;
There blow thy trumpet that the dead may know,
Who waited for thy coming, Victory.
It is not we that have deserved thy wreath,
They waited there among the towering weeds.
The deep mud burned under the thermite’s breath,
And winter cracked the bones that no man heeds:
Hundreds of nights flamed by: the seasons passed.
And thou last come to them at last, at last!
On the great steps of Arras Cathedral I saw a procession, in silence, standing still.
They were in orderly and perfect lines, stirring or swaying slightly: sometimes they bent their heads, sometimes two leaned together, but for the most part they were motionless. It was the time when the fashion is just changing and some were newly all in shining yellow, while others still wore green.
I went up the steps amongst them, the only human thing, for men and women worship no more in Arras Cathedral, and the trees have come instead; little humble things, all less than four years old, in great numbers thronging the steps processionally, and growing in perfect rows just where step meets step. They have come to Arras with the wind and the rain; which enter the aisles together whenever they will, and go wherever man went; they have such a reverent air, the young limes on the three flights of steps, that you would say they did not know that Arras Cathedral was fallen on evil days, that they did not know they looked on ruin and vast disaster, but thought that these great walls open to stars and sun were the natural and fitting place for the worship of little weeds.
Behind them the shattered houses of Arras seemed to cluster about the cathedral as, one might fancy easily, hurt and frightened children, so wistful are their gaping windows and old, grey empty gables, so melancholy and puzzled. They are more like a little old people come upon trouble, gazing at their great elder companion and not knowing what to do.
But the facts of Arras are sadder than a poet’s most tragic fancies. In the western front of Arras Cathedral stand eight pillars rising from the ground; above them stood four more. Of the four upper pillars the two on the left are gone, swept away by shells from the north: and a shell has passed through the neck of one of the two that is left, just as a bullet might go through a daffodil’s stem.
The left-hand corner of that western wall has been caught from the north, by some tremendous shell which has torn the whole corner down in a mound of stone: and still the walls have stood.