Down in the hollow there’s the whole Brigade
Camped in four groups: through twilight falling slow
I hear a sound of mouth-organs, ill-played,
And murmur of voices, gruff, confused, and low.
Crouched among thistle-tufts I’ve watched the glow
Of a blurred orange sunset flare and fade;
And I’m content. To-morrow we must go
To take some cursed Wood.... O world God made!
July 3rd, 1916.
“Fall in! Now, get a move on!”
(Curse the rain.)
We splash away along the straggling village,
Out to the flat rich country green with June....
And sunset flares across wet crops and tillage,
Blazing with splendour-patches. Harvest soon
Up in the Line. “Perhaps the War’ll be done
By Christmas-time. Keep smiling then, old son!”
Here’s the Canal: it’s dusk; we cross the bridge. “Lead on there by platoons.” The Line’s a-glare With shell-fire through the poplars; distant rattle Of rifles and machine-guns. “Fritz is there! Christ, ain’t it lively, Sergeant? Is’t a battle?” More rain: the lightning blinks, and thunder rumbles. “There’s overhead artillery,” some chap grumbles.
“What’s all this mob, by the cross-road?” (The guides).... “Lead on with Number One” (And off they go.)
“Three-minute intervals.” ...
Poor blundering files,
Sweating and blindly burdened; who’s to know
If death will catch them in those two dark miles?
(More rain.) “Lead on, Headquarters.”
(That’s the lot.)
“Who’s that? O, Sergeant-major; don’t get shot!
And tell me, have we won this war or not?”
Why do you lie with your legs ungainly huddled,
And one arm bent across your sullen cold
Exhausted face? It hurts my heart to watch you,
Deep-shadow’d from the candle’s guttering gold;
And you wonder why I shake you by the shoulder;
Drowsy, you mumble and sigh and turn your head....
You are too young to fall asleep for ever;
And when you sleep you remind me of the dead.
(Hindenburg Line, April 1917.)
Groping along the tunnel, step by step,
He winked his prying torch with patching glare
From side to side, and sniffed the unwholesome air.
Tins, boxes, bottles, shapes too vague to know,
A mirror smashed, the mattress from a bed;
And he, exploring fifty feet below
The rosy gloom of battle overhead.