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Poem

Aftermath

With Desolation and the Stars
I lonely vigil keep,
Over the garner'd fields of Mars,
Watching the dead men sleep —
Huddled together, so silent there.
With bloodless faces and clotted hair,
Wrapped in their long, long sleep!

By uptorn trees and crater rims
Along the Ridge they lie,
Sprawled in the mud, with out-spread limbs,
Wide staring at the sky.
Why to the sky do they always stare,
Questioning heaven in dumb despair?
Why don't they moan, or sigh?

Why do I rave, ‘neath the callous stars,
At their upturned faces white?
I, surely I, with my crimson scars
Slumber with them this night!
Death, with shadowy finger bare,
Beckons me on to — I know not where;
But, huddled together, and freed from care
We'll watch till the dawn of Light.

From the Somme,
1916


Poem
W.W.I. April, 1917

Packing Out (A Ballad of the Stretcher Bearers)

I

We loaf around the Aid Post, on the sand bags in the sun,
Taking the jeers and sneers of every passing son-of-a-gun.
We are the lousy stretcher-squads, the discards of the Pack,
The idlers of the Army— til the Army's next attack!

II

And then, some bloody morning, when the sky's a blazing red,
And the batteries are roaring loud enough to wake the dead,
And the little mad machine-guns the infernal racket swell
With the din of devils riveting the boiler plates of hell.

III

—Oh, then it's "Good Old Stretcher-Bearers: they're the boys for trouble!"
"Gangway for the Stretcher-Bearers coming on the double!"
"Gangway for the Bearers!" goes from trench to trench the cry,
And everybody hops aside to let the "Bearers" by.

IV

Into the red confusion the, and through the din we pass, —
Stumbling along the trench mats, holding our breath for Gas —
Scrambling over the bald-spots, hearing the bullets whine —
Over the gaps and through the saps and up the Firing Line.

V

We go where men are falling in the awesome barrage-tract,
We dig them out, and pick them up, and pack them safely back.
Over the wire and through the mire and down the Line we go,
And you can bet your old Tin Hat our pace is far from slow!

VI

Back and back we go, til the battle-field is clear,
(It's good to hear the wounded chaps giving us the Cheer!)
Back and back we go til the bloody job is through, —
Then it's "Good old Stretcher-Bearers!" and "A double Rum for you!"

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