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 And while I wondered on their being withdrawn, Gagged by the smothering wing which none unbinds, I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.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
Wild with All Regrets
(Another version of “A Terre.”) To Siegfried Sassoon My arms have mutinied against me—brutes! My fingers fidget like ten idle brats, My back’s been stiff for hours, damned hours. Death never gives his squad a Stand-at-ease. I can’t read. There: it’s no use. Take you book. A short life and a merry one, my buck! We said we’d hate to grow dead old. But now, Not to live old seems awful: not to renew My boyhood with my boys, and teach ’em hitting, Shooting and hunting,—all the arts of hurting! —Well, that’s what I learnt. That, and making money. your fifty years in store seem none too many; But I’ve five minutes. God! For just two years To help myself to this good air of yours! One Spring! Is one too hard to spare? Too long? Spring air would find its own way to my lung, And grow me legs as quick as lilac-shoots. Yes, there’s the orderly. He’ll change the sheets When I’m lugged out, oh, couldn’t I do that? Here in this coffin of a bed, I’ve though I’d like to kneel and sweep his floors for ever,— And ask no nights off when the bustle’s over, For I’d enjoy 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? Dear dust,—in rooms, on roads, on faces’ tan! I’d love to be a sweep’s boy, black as Town; Yes, or a muckman. Must I be his load? A flea would do. If one chap wasn’t bloody, Or went stone-cold, I’d find another body. Which I shan’t manage now. Unless it’s yours. I shall stay in you, friend, for some few hours. You’ll feel my heavy spirit chill your chest, And climb your throat on sobs, until it’s chased On sighs, and wiped from off your lips by wind. I think on your rich breathing, brother, I’ll be weaned To do without what blood remained me from my wound. 5th December 1917.