In Memorian (Easter 1915) Edward Thomas
The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.
The Cherry Trees
The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.
Break of Day in the Trenches
The darkness crumbles away--
It is the same old druid Time as ever.
Only a live thing leaps my hand--
A queer sardonic rat--
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand,
You will do the same to a German--
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver—what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.
Straw rustling everywhere.
The candle-stumps stand there staring solemnly.
Across the nocturnal vault of the church
Moans go drifting and choking words.
There’s a stench of blood, pus, shit and sweat.
Bandages ooze away underneath torn uniforms.
Clammy trembling hands and wasted faces.
Bodies stay propped up as their dying heads slump down.
In the distance the battle thunders grimly on,
Day and night, groaning and grumbling non-stop,
And to the dying men patiently waiting for their graves
It sounds for all the world like the words of God.
November 1914 Trans. Patrick Bridgwater
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