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66 Works of Siegfried Sassoon

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The Kiss

Story type: Poetry

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To these I turn, in these I trust; Brother Lead and Sister Steel. To his blind power I make appeal; I guard her beauty clean from rust. He spins and burns and loves the air, And splits a skull to win my praise; But up the nobly marching days She glitters naked, cold and fair. […]

Atrocities

Story type: Poetry

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You told me, in your drunken-boasting mood, How once you butchered prisoners. That was good! I’m sure you felt no pity while they stood Patient and cowed and scared, as prisoners should. How did you do them in? Come, don’t be shy: You know I love to hear how Germans die, Downstairs in dug-outs. “Camerad!” […]

"They"

Story type: Poetry

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The Bishop tells us: “When the boys come back 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 […]

Arms and the Man

Story type: Poetry

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Young Croesus went to pay his call On Colonel Sawbones, Caxton Hall: And, though his wound was healed and mended, He hoped he’d get his leave extended. The waiting-room was dark and bare. He eyed a neat-framed notice there Above the fireplace hung to show Disabled heroes where to go For arms and legs; with […]

"Blighters"

Story type: Poetry

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The house is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin And cackle at the Show, while prancing ranks Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din; “We’re sure the Kaiser loves the dear old Tanks!” I’d like to see a Tank come down the stalls, Lurching to rag-time tunes, or “Home, sweet Home,”– And there’d be […]

He primmed his loose red mouth, and leaned his head Against a sorrowing angel’s breast, and said: “You’d think so much bereavement would have made Unusual big demands upon my trade. The War comes cruel hard on some poor folk– Unless the fighting stops I’ll soon be broke.” He eyed the Cemetery across the road– […]

When I’m among a blaze of lights, With tawdry music and cigars And women dawdling through delights, And officers at cocktail bars,– Sometimes I think of garden nights And elm trees nodding at the stars. I dream of a small firelit room With yellow candles burning straight, And glowing pictures in the gloom, And kindly […]

Propped on a stick he viewed the August weald; Squat orchard trees and oasts with painted cowls; A homely, tangled hedge, a corn-stooked field, With sound of barking dogs and farmyard fowls. And he’d come home again to find it more Desirable than ever it was before. How right it seemed that he should reach […]

A lady watches from the crowd, Enthusiastic, flushed, and proud. “Oh! there’s Sir Henry Dudster! Such a splendid leader! How pleased he looks! What rows of ribbons on his tunic! Such dignity…. Saluting…. (Wave your flag … now, Freda!)… Yes, dear, I saw a Prussian General once,–at Munich. “Here’s the next carriage!… Jack was once […]

(ALEXANDRIA-MARSEILLES) Out in the blustering darkness, on the deck A gleam of stars looks down. Long blurs of black, The lean Destroyers, level with our track, Plunging and stealing, watch the perilous way Through backward racing seas and caverns of chill spray. One sentry by the davits, in the gloom Stands mute; the boat heaves […]

Concert Party

Story type: Poetry

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(EGYPTIAN BASE CAMP) They are gathering round … Out of the twilight; over the grey-blue sand, Shoals of low-jargoning men drift inward to the sound,– The jangle and throb of a piano … tum-ti-tum … Drawn by a lamp, they come Out of the glimmering lines of their tents, over the shuffling sand. O sing […]

Reconciliation

Story type: Poetry

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When you are standing at your hero’s grave, Or near some homeless village where he died, Remember, through your heart’s rekindling pride, The German soldiers who were loyal and brave. Men fought like brutes; and hideous things were done: And you have nourished hatred, harsh and blind. But in that Golgotha perhaps you’ll find The […]

A Letter Home

Story type: Poetry

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(To Robert Graves) I Here I’m sitting in the gloom Of my quiet attic room. France goes rolling all around, Fledged with forest May has crowned. And I puff my pipe, calm-hearted, Thinking how the fighting started, Wondering when we’ll ever end it, Back to Hell with Kaiser send it, Gag the noise, pack up […]

The Death-Bed

Story type: Poetry

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He drowsed and was aware of silence heaped Round him, unshaken as the steadfast walls; Aqueous like floating rays of amber light, Soaring and quivering in the wings of sleep,– Silence and safety; and his mortal shore Lipped by the inward, moonless waves of death. Some one was holding water to his mouth. He swallowed, […]

Memorial Tablet

Story type: Poetry

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(GREAT WAR) Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight (Under Lord Derby’s scheme). I died in hell– (They called it Passchendaele); my wound was slight, And I was hobbling back, and then a shell Burst slick upon the duck-boards; so I fell Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light. In sermon-time, while […]

Everyone Sang

Story type: Poetry

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Everyone suddenly burst out singing; And I was filled with such delight As prisoned birds must find in freedom Winging wildly across the white Orchards and dark green fields; on; on; and out of sight. Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted, And beauty came like the setting sun. My heart was shaken with tears and horror […]

Aftermath

Story type: Poetry

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Have you forgotten yet?… For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days, Like traffic checked awhile at the crossing of city ways: And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go, Taking your […]

The Redeemer

Story type: Poetry

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Darkness: the rain sluiced down; the mire was deep; It was past twelve on a mid-winter night, When peaceful folk in beds lay snug asleep: There, with much work to do before the light, We lugged our clay-sucked boots as best we might Along the trench; sometimes a bullet sang, And droning shells burst with […]

A Working Party

Story type: Poetry

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Three hours ago he blundered up the trench, Sliding and poising, groping with his boots; Sometimes he tripped and lurched against the walls With hands that pawed the sodden bags of chalk. He couldn’t see the man who walked in front; Only he heard the drum and rattle of feet Stepping along the trench-boards,–often splashing […]

I’d been on duty from two till four. I went and stared at the dug-out door. Down in the frowst I heard them snore. “Stand-to!” Somebody grunted and swore. Dawn was misty; the skies were still; Larks were singing, discordant, shrill; They seemed happy; but I felt ill. Deep in water I splashed my way […]

"In The Pink"

Story type: Poetry

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So Davies wrote: “This leaves me in the pink.” Then scrawled his name: “Your loving sweetheart, Willie.” With crosses for a hug. He’d had a drink Of rum and tea; and, though the barn was chilly, For once his blood ran warm; he had pay to spend. Winter was passing; soon the year would mend. […]

The Hero

Story type: Poetry

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“Jack fell as he’d have wished,” the Mother said, And folded up the letter that she’d read. “The Colonel writes so nicely.” Something broke In the tired voice that quavered to a choke. She half looked up. “We mothers are so proud Of our dead soldiers.” Then her face was bowed. Quietly the Brother Officer […]

Before The Battle

Story type: Poetry

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Music of whispering trees Hushed by the broad-winged breeze Where shaken water gleams; And evening radiance falling With reedy bird-notes calling. O bear me safe through dark, you low-voiced streams. I have no need to pray That fear may pass away; I scorn the growl and rumble of the fight That summons me from cool […]

The Road

Story type: Poetry

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The road is thronged with women; soldiers pass And halt, but never see them; yet they’re here– A patient crowd along the sodden grass, Silent, worn out with waiting, sick with fear. The road goes crawling up a long hillside, All ruts and stones and sludge, and the emptied dregs Of battle thrown in heaps. […]

Trudging by Corbie Ridge one winter’s night, (Unless old, hearsay memories tricked his sight), Along the pallid edge of the quiet sky He watched a nosing lorry grinding on, And straggling files of men; when these were gone, A double limber and six mules went by, Hauling the rations up through ruts and mud To […]

At Carnoy

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

Battalion-Relief

Story type: Poetry

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“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!” […]

The Dug-Out

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

I stood with the Dead, so forsaken and still: When dawn was grey I stood with the Dead. And my slow heart said, “You must kill; you must kill: Soldier, soldier, morning is red.” On the shapes of the slain in their crumpled disgrace I stared for a while through the thin cold rain…. “O […]

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 […]

Died of Wounds

Story type: Poetry

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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 […]

The Fathers

Story type: Poetry

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Snug at the club two fathers sat,Gross, goggle-eyed, and full of chat.One of them said: “My eldest ladWrites cheery letters from Bagdad.But Arthur’s getting all the funAt Arras with his nine-inch gun.” “Yes,” wheezed the other, “that’s the luck!My boy’s quite broken-hearted, stuckIn England training all this year.Still, if there’s truth in what we hear,The […]

I knew a simple soldier boyWho grinned at life in empty joy,Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,And whistled early with the lark. In winter trenches, cowed and glum,With crumps and lice and lack of rum,He put a bullet through his brain.No one spoke of him again.* * * * *You snug-faced crowds with kindling eyeWho […]

He seemed so certain “all was going well,”As he discussed the glorious time he’d hadWhile visiting the trenches.“One can tellYou’ve gathered big impressions!” grinned the ladWho’d been severely wounded in the backIn some wiped-out impossible Attack.“Impressions? Yes, most vivid! I am writingA little book called Europe on the Rack,Based on notes made while witnessing the […]

Does it matter?

Story type: Poetry

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Does it matter?–losing your leg? …For people will always be kind,And you need not show that you mindWhen the others come in after huntingTo gobble their muffins and eggs. Does it matter?–losing your sight? …There’s such splendid work for the blind;And people will always be kind,As you sit on the terrace rememberingAnd turning your face […]

Fight to a finish

Story type: Poetry

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The boys came back. Bands played and flags were flying,And Yellow-Pressmen thronged the sunlit streetTo cheer the soldiers who’d refrained from dying,And hear the music of returning feet.“Of all the thrills and ardours War has brought,This moment is the finest.” (So they thought.) Snapping their bayonets on to charge the mob,Grim Fusiliers broke ranks with […]

Lamentations

Story type: Poetry

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I found him in the guard-room at the Base.From the blind darkness I had heard his cryingAnd blundered in. With puzzled, patient faceA sergeant watched him; it was no good tryingTo stop it; for he howled and beat his chest.And, all because his brother had gone West,Raved at the bleeding war; his rampant griefMoaned, shouted, […]

The General

Story type: Poetry

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“Good-morning; good-morning!” the General saidWhen we met him last week on our way to the line.Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.“He’s a cheery old card,” grunted Harry to JackAs they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.* * * * *But he […]

Base details

Story type: Poetry

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If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,And speed glum heroes up the line to death.You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,Reading the Roll of Honour. “Poor young chap,”I’d say–“I used to know his father well;Yes, we’ve lost heavily […]

The Investiture

Story type: Poetry

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God with a Roll of Honour in His handSits welcoming the heroes who have died,While sorrowless angels ranked on either sideStand easy in Elysium’s meadow-land.Then you come shyly through the garden gate,Wearing a blood-soaked bandage on your head;And God says something kind because you’re dead,And homesick, discontented with your fate. If I were there we’d […]

Their Frailty

Story type: Poetry

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He’s got a Blighty wound. He’s safe; and thenWar’s fine and bold and bright.She can forget the doomed and prisoned menWho agonize and fight. He’s back in France. She loathes the listless strainAnd peril of his plight.Beseeching Heaven to send him home again,She prays for peace each night. Husbands and sons and lovers; everywhereThey die; […]

The Hawthorn Tree

Story type: Poetry

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Not much to me is yonder laneWhere I go every day;But when there’s been a shower of rainAnd hedge-birds whistle gay,I know my lad that’s out in FranceWith fearsome things to seeWould give his eyes for just one glanceAt our white hawthorn tree.* * * * *Not much to me is yonder laneWhere he so […]

Glory of women

Story type: Poetry

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You love us when we’re heroes, home on leave,Or wounded in a mentionable place.You worship decorations; you believeThat chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace.You make us shells. You listen with delight,By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled.You crown our distant ardours while we fight,And mourn our laurelled memories when we’re killed.You can’t believe that British […]

Break of day

Story type: Poetry

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There seemed a smell of autumn in the airAt the bleak end of night; he shivered thereIn a dank, musty dug-out where he lay,Legs wrapped in sand-bags,–lumps of chalk and claySpattering his face. Dry-mouthed, he thought, “To-dayWe start the damned attack; and, Lord knows why,Zero’s at nine; how bloody if I’m done inUnder the freedom […]

Trench duty

Story type: Poetry

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Shaken from sleep, and numbed and scarce awake,Out in the trench with three hours’ watch to take,I blunder through the splashing mirk; and thenHear the gruff muttering voices of the menCrouching in cabins candle-chinked with light.Hark! There’s the big bombardment on our rightRumbling and bumping; and the dark’s a glareOf flickering horror in the sectors […]

Sick Leave

Story type: Poetry

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When I’m asleep, dreaming and lulled and warm,–They come, the homeless ones, the noiseless dead.While the dim charging breakers of the stormBellow and drone and rumble overhead,Out of the gloom they gather about my bed.They whisper to my heart; their thoughts are mine.“Why are you here with all your watches ended?From Ypres to Frise we […]

Well, how are things in Heaven? I wish you’d say,Because I’d like to know that you’re all right.Tell me, have you found everlasting day,Or been sucked in by everlasting night?For when I shut my eyes your face shows pain;I hear you make some cheery old remark–I can rebuild you in my brain,Though you’ve gone out […]

Banishment

Story type: Poetry

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I am banished from the patient men who fight.They smote my heart to pity, built my pride.Shoulder to aching shoulder, side by side,They trudged away from life’s broad wealds of light.Their wrongs were mine; and ever in my sightThey went arrayed in honour. But they died,–Not one by one: and mutinous I criedTo those who […]

In Barracks

Story type: Poetry

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The barrack-square, washed clean with rain,Shines wet and wintry-grey and cold.Young Fusiliers, strong-legged and bold,March and wheel and march again.The sun looks over the barrack gate,Warm and white with glaring shine,To watch the soldiers of the LineThat life has hired to fight with fate. Fall out: the long parades are done.Up comes the dark; down […]

Counter-Attack

Story type: Poetry

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We’d gained our first objective hours beforeWhile dawn broke like a face with blinking eyes,Pallid, unshaved and thirsty, blind with smoke.Things seemed all right at first. We held their line,With bombers posted, Lewis guns well placed,And clink of shovels deepening the shallow trench.The place was rotten with dead; green clumsy legsHigh-booted, sprawled and grovelled along […]

Dim, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloomShudders to drizzling daybreak that revealsDisconsolate men who stamp their sodden bootsAnd turn dulled, sunken faces to the skyHaggard and hopeless. They, who have beaten downThe stale despair of night, must now renewTheir desolation in the truce of dawn,Murdering the livid hours that grope for peace. Yet these, who […]

The Effect

Story type: Poetry

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The effect of our bombardment was terrific. One mantold me he had never seen so many dead before.”– War Correspondent. “He’d never seen so many dead before.”They sprawled in yellow daylight while he sworeAnd gasped and lugged his everlasting loadOf bombs along what once had been a road.“How peaceful are the dead.”Who put that silly […]

How to die

Story type: Poetry

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Dark clouds are smouldering into redWhile down the craters morning burns.The dying soldier shifts his headTo watch the glory that returns:He lifts his fingers toward the skiesWhere holy brightness breaks in flame;Radiance reflected in his eyes,And on his lips a whispered name. You’d think, to hear some people talk,That lads go West with sobs and […]

Attack

Story type: Poetry

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At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dunIn the wild purple of the glowering sun,Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroudThe menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowedWith bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,Men jostle and climb to meet […]

Dreamers

Story type: Poetry

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Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows.In the great hour of destiny they stand,Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.Soldiers are sworn to action; they must winSome flaming, fatal climax with their lives.Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns beginThey think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives. I see […]

Wirers

Story type: Poetry

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“Pass it along, the wiring party’s going out”–And yawning sentries mumble, “Wirers going out,”Unravelling; twisting; hammering stakes with muffled thud,They toil with stealthy haste and anger in their blood. The Boche sends up a flare. Black forms stand rigid there,Stock-still like posts; then darkness, and the clumsy ghostsStride hither and thither, whispering, tripped by clutching […]

The Rear-guard

Story type: Poetry

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(Hindenburg Line, April 1917.) Groping along the tunnel, step by step,He winked his prying torch with patching glareFrom 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 belowThe rosy gloom of battle overhead. Tripping, he grabbed the […]

Hullo! here’s my platoon, the lot I had last year.“The war’ll be over soon.”“What ‘opes?”“No bloody fear!”Then, “Number Seven, ‘shun! All present and correct.”They’re standing in the sun, impassive and erect.Young Gibson with his grin; and Morgan, tired and white;Jordan, who’s out to win a D.C.M. some night;And Hughes that’s keen on wiring; and Davies […]

In fifty years, when peace outshinesRemembrance of the battle lines,Adventurous lads will sigh and castProud looks upon the plundered past.On summer morn or winter’s night,Their hearts will kindle for the fight,Reading a snatch of soldier-song,Savage and jaunty, fierce and strong;And through the angry marching rhymesOf blind regret and haggard mirth,They’ll envy us the dazzling timesWhen […]

Thrushes

Story type: Poetry

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Tossed on the glittering air they soar and skim,Whose voices make the emptiness of lightA windy palace. Quavering from the brimOf dawn, and bold with song at edge of night,They clutch their leafy pinnacles and singScornful of man, and from his toils aloofWhose heart’s a haunted woodland whispering;Whose thoughts return on tempest-baffled wing;Who hears the […]

Joy-bells

Story type: Poetry

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Ring your sweet bells; but let them be farewellsTo the green-vista’d gladness of the pastThat changed us into soldiers; swing your bellsTo a joyful chime; but let it be the last. What means this metal in windy belfries hungWhen guns are all our need? Dissolve these bellsWhose tones are tuned for peace: with martial tongueLet […]

Survivors

Story type: Poetry

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No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strainHave caused their stammering, disconnected talk.Of course they’re “longing to go out again,”–These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk,They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowedSubjection to the ghosts of friends who died,–Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proudOf glorious war […]

The Triumph

Story type: Poetry

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When life was a cobweb of stars for Beauty who cameIn the whisper of leaves or a bird’s lone cry in the glen,On dawn-lit hills and horizons girdled with flameI sought for the triumph that troubles the faces of men. With death in the terrible flickering gloom of the fightI was cruel and fierce with […]

Now light the candles; one; two; there’s a moth;What silly beggars they are to blunder inAnd scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame–No, no, not that,–it’s bad to think of war,When thoughts you’ve gagged all day come back to scare you;And it’s been proved that soldiers don’t go madUnless they lose control of ugly thoughtsThat […]

Dead Musicians

Story type: Poetry

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I From you, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart,The substance of my dreams took fire.You built cathedrals in my heart,And lit my pinnacled desire.You were the ardour and the brightProcession of my thoughts toward prayer.You were the wrath of storm, the lightOn distant citadels aflare. II Great names, I cannot find you nowIn these loud years of youth […]

Remorse

Story type: Poetry

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Lost in the swamp and welter of the pit,He flounders off the duck-boards; only he knowsEach flash, and spouting crash,–each instant litWhen gloom reveals the streaming rain. He goesHeavily, 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 […]