Suddenly night crushed out the day and hurled Her remnants over cloud-peaks, thunder-walled. Then fell a stillness such as harks appalled When far-gone dead return upon the world. There watched I for the Dead; but no ghost woke. Each one whom Life exiled I named and called. But they were all too far, or dumbed, or thralled; And never one fared back to me or spoke. Then peered the indefinite unshapen dawn With vacant gloaming, sad as half-lit minds, The weak-limned hour when sick men’s sighs are drained. And while I wondered on their being withdrawn, Gagged by the smothering wing which none unbinds, I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.
Wilfred Owen - 1893-1918
I Happy are the men who yet before they are killed Can let their veins run cold. Whom no compassion fleers Or makes their feet Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers. The front line withers, But they are troops who fade, not flowers For poets’ tearful fooling: Men, gaps for filling Losses who might have fought Longer; but no one bothers. II And some cease feeling Even themselves or for themselves. Dullness best solves The tease and doubt of shelling, And Chance’s strange arithmetic Comes simpler than the reckoning of their shilling. They keep no check on Armies’ decimation. III Happy are these who lose imagination: They have enough to carry with ammunition. Their spirit drags no pack. Their old wounds save with cold can not more ache. Having seen all things red, Their eyes are rid Of the hurt of the colour of blood for ever. And terror’s first constriction over, Their hearts remain small drawn. Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle Now long since ironed, Can laugh among the dying, unconcerned. IV Happy the soldier home, with not a notion How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack, And many sighs are drained. Happy the lad whose mind was never trained: His days are worth forgetting more than not. He sings along the march Which we march taciturn, because of dusk, The long, forlorn, relentless trend From larger day to huger night. V We wise, who with a thought besmirch Blood over all our soul, How should we see our task But through his blunt and lashless eyes? Alive, he is not vital overmuch; Dying, not mortal overmuch; Nor sad, nor proud, Nor curious at all. He cannot tell Old men’s placidity from his. VI But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns, That they should be as stones. Wretched are they, and mean With paucity that never was simplicity. By choice they made themselves immune To pity and whatever mourns in man Before the last sea and the hapless stars; Whatever mourns when many leave these shores; Whatever shares The eternal reciprocity of tears.