Lost in the swamp and welter of the pit,
He flounders off the duck-boards; only he knows
Each flash and spouting crash,—each instant lit
When gloom reveals the streaming rain. He goes
Heavily, blindly on. And, while he blunders,
“Could anything be worse than this?”—he wonders,
Remembering how he saw those Germans run,
Screaming for mercy among the stumps of trees:
Green-faced, they dodged and darted: there was one
Livid with terror, clutching at his knees....
Our chaps were sticking ’em like pigs.... “O hell!”
He thought—“there’s things in war one dare not tell
Poor father sitting safe at home, who reads
Of dying heroes and their deathless deeds.”
Quietly they set their burden down: he tried
To grin; moaned; moved his head from side to side.
* * * * *
He gripped the stretcher; stiffened; glared; and screamed,
“O put my leg down, doctor, do!” (He’d got
A bullet in his ankle; and he’d been shot
Horribly through the guts.) The surgeon seemed
So kind and gentle, saying, above that crying,
“You must keep still, my lad.” But he was dying.
His wet, white face and miserable eyes
Brought nurses to him more than groans and sighs:
But hoarse and low and rapid rose and fell
His troubled voice: he did the business well.
The ward grew dark; but he was still complaining,
And calling out for “Dickie.” “Curse the Wood!
It’s time to go; O Christ, and what’s the good?—
We’ll never take it; and it’s always raining.”
I wondered where he’d been; then heard him shout,
“They snipe like hell! O Dickie, don’t go out” ...
I fell asleep ... next morning he was dead;
And some Slight Wound lay smiling on his bed.
The Bishop tells us: “When the boys come
They will not be the same; for they’ll have fought
In a just cause: they lead the last attack
On Anti-Christ; their comrade’s blood has bought
New right to breed an honourable race.
They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.”
“We’re none of us the same!” the
“For George lost both his legs; and Bill’s stone blind;
Poor Jim’s shot through the lungs and like to die;
And Bert’s gone syphilitic: you’ll not find
A chap who’s served that hasn’t found some change.”
And the Bishop said; “The ways of God are strange!”