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 And while I wondered on their being withdrawn, Gagged by the smothering wing which none unbinds, I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.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
My soul looked down from a vague height with Death, As unremembering how I rose or why, And saw a sad land, weak with sweats of dearth, Gray, cratered like the moon with hollow woe, And fitted with great pocks and scabs of plaques. Across its beard, that horror of harsh wire, There moved thin caterpillars, slowly uncoiled. It seemed they pushed themselves to be as plugs Of ditches, where they writhed and shriveled, killed. By them had slimy paths been trailed and scraped Round myriad warts that might be little hills. From gloom’s last dregs these long-strung creatures crept, And vanished out of dawn down hidden holes. (And smell came up from those foul openings As out of mouths, or deep wounds deepening.) On dithering feet upgathered, more and more, Brown strings towards strings of gray, with bristling spines, All migrants from green fields, intent on mire. Those that were gray, of more abundant spawns, Ramped on the rest and ate them and were eaten. I saw their bitten backs curve, loop, and straighten, I watched those agonies curl, lift, and flatten. Whereat, in terror what that sight might mean, I reeled and shivered earthward like a feather. And Death fell with me, like a deepening moan. And He, picking a manner of worm, which half had hid Its bruises in the earth, but crawled no further, Showed me its feet, the feet of many men, And the fresh-severed head of it, my head.