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SASSOON, Siegfried


At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun

In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun,

Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud

The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,

Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.

The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed

With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,

Men jostle and climb to, meet the bristling fire.

Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,

They leave their trenches, going over the top,

While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,

And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,

Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!


In the grey summer garden I shall find you

With day-break and the morning hills behind you.

There will be rain-wet roses; stir of wings;

And down the wood a thrush that wakes and sings.

Not from the past you’ll come, but from that deep

Where beauty murmurs to the soul asleep:

And I shall know the sense of life re-born

From dreams into the mystery of morn

Where gloom and brightness meet. And standing there

Till that calm song is done, at last we’ll share

The league-spread, quiring symphonies that are

Joy in the world, and peace, and dawn’s one star.

Stretcher Case

He woke; the clank and racket of the train

Kept time with angry throbbings in his brain.

Then for a while he lapsed and drowsed again.

At last he lifted his bewildered eyes

And blinked, and rolled them sidelong; hills and skies,

Heavily wooded, hot with August haze,

And, slipping backward, golden for his gaze,

Acres of harvest.

Feebly now he drags

Exhausted ego back from glooms and quags

And blasting tumult, terror, hurtling glare,

To calm and brightness, havens of sweet air.

He sighed, confused; then drew a cautious breath;

This level journeying was no ride through death.

‘If I were dead,’ he mused, ‘there’d be no thinking—

Only some plunging underworld of sinking,

And hueless, shifting welter where I’d drown.’

Then he remembered that his name was Brown.

But was he back in Blighty? Slow he turned,

Till in his heart thanksgiving leapt and burned.

There shone the blue serene, the prosperous land,

Trees, cows and hedges; skipping these, he scanned

Large, friendly names, that change not with the year,

Lung Tonic, Mustard, Liver Pills and Beer.