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 And while I wondered on their being withdrawn, Gagged by the smothering wing which none unbinds, I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.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
(Being the philosophy of many Soldiers.) Sit on the bed; I’m blind, and three parts shell, Be careful; can’t shake hands now; never shall. Both arms have mutinied against me—brutes. My fingers fidget like ten idle brats. I tried to peg out soldierly—no use! One dies of war like any old disease. This bandage feels like pennies on my eyes. I have my medals?—Discs to make eyes close. My glorious ribbons?—Ripped from my own back In scarlet shreds. (That’s for your poetry book.) A short life and a merry one, my brick! We used to say we’d hate to live dead old,— Yet now . . . I’d willingly be puffy, bald, And patriotic. Buffers catch from boys At least the jokes hurled at them, I suppose Little I’d ever teach a son, but hitting, Shooting, war, hunting, all the arts of hurting. Well, that’s what I learnt,—that, and making money. Your fifty years ahead seem none too many? Tell me how long I’ve got? God! For one year To help myself to nothing more than air! One Spring! Is one too good to spare, too long? Spring wind would work its own way to my lung, And grow me legs as quick as lilac-shoots. My servant’s lamed, but listen how he shouts! When I’m lugged out, he’ll still be good for that. Here in this mummy-case, you know, I’ve thought How well I might have swept his floors for ever, I’d ask no night off when the bustle’s over, Enjoying so the dirt. Who’s prejudiced Against a grimed hand when his own’s quite dust, Less live than specks that in the sun-shafts turn, Less warm than dust that mixes with arms’ tan? I’d love to be a sweep, now, black as Town, Yes, or a muckman. Must I be his load? O Life, Life, let me breath,—a dug-out rat! Not worse than ours the existences rats lead— Nosing along at night down some safe vat, They find a shell-proof home before they rot. Dead men may envy living mites in cheese, Or good germs even. Microbes have their joys, And subdivide, and never come to death, Certainly flowers have the easiest time on earth. “I shall be one with nature, herb, and stone.” Shelley would tell me. Shelley would be stunned; The dullest Tommy hugs that fancy now. “Pushing up daisies,” is their creed, you know. To grain, then, go my fat, to buds my sap, For all the usefulness there is in soap. D’you think the Boch will ever stew man-soup? Some day, no doubt, if . . . Friend, be very sure I shall be better off with plants that share More peaceably the meadow and the shower. Soft rains will touch me,—as they could touch once, And nothing but the sun shall make me ware. Your guns may crash around me. I’ll not hear; Or, if I wince, I shall not know I wince. Don’t take my soul’s poor comfort for your jest. Soldiers may grow a soul when turned to fronds, But here the thing’s best left at home with friends. My soul’s a little grief, grappling your chest, To climb your throat on sobs; easily chased On other sighs and wiped by fresher winds. Carry my crying spirit till it’s weaned To do without what blood remained these wounds.