Guest poem submitted by Nick Grundy:
(Poem #746) Dead Man's Dump
The plunging limbers over the shattered track Racketed with their rusty freight, Stuck out like many crowns of thorns, And the rusty stakes like sceptres old To stay the flood of brutish men Upon our brothers dear. The wheels lurched over sprawled dead But pained them not, though their bones crunched; Their shut mouths made no moan, They lie there huddled, friend and foeman, Man born of man, and born of woman; And shells go crying over them From night till night and now. Earth has waited for them, All the time of their growth Fretting for their decay: Now she has them at last! In the strength of her strength Suspended - stopped and held. What fierce imaginings their dark souls lit? Earth! Have they gone into you? Somewhere they must have gone, And flung on your hard back Is their souls' sack, Emptied of God-ancestralled essences. Who hurled them out? Who hurled? None saw their spirits' shadow shake the grass, Or stood aside for the half-used life to pass Out of those doomed nostrils and the doomed mouth, When the swift iron burning bee Drained the wild honey of their youth. What of us who, flung on the shrieking pyre, Walk, our usual thoughts untouched, Our lucky limbs as on ichor fed, Immortal seeming ever? Perhaps when the flames beat loud on us, A fear may choke in our veins And the startled blood may stop. The air is loud with death, The dark air spurts with fire, The explosions ceaseless are. Timelessly now, some minutes past, These dead strode time with vigorous life, Till the shrapnel called 'An end!' But not to all. In bleeding pangs Some borne on stretchers dreamed of home, Dear things, war-blotted from their hearts. A man's brains splattered on A stretcher-bearer's face; His shook shoulders slipped their load, But when they bent to look again The drowning soul was sunk too deep For human tenderness. They left this dead with the older dead, Stretched at the cross roads. Burnt black by strange decay Their sinister faces lie, The lid over each eye; The grass and coloured clay More motion have than they, Joined to the great sunk silences. Here is one not long dead. His dark hearing caught our far wheels, And the choked soul stretched weak hands To reach the living word the far wheels said; The blood-dazed intelligence beating for light, Crying through the suspense of the far torturing wheels Swift for the end to break Or the wheels to break, Cried as the tide of the world broke over his sight, 'Will they come? Will they ever come?' Even as the mixed hoofs of the mules, The quivering-bellied mules, And the rushing wheels all mixed With his tortured upturned sight. So we crashed round the bend, We heard his weak scream, We heard his very last sound, And our wheels grazed his dead face.
(1890-1918) Ok - one or two comments - in isolation, there are parts of this poem I find rather irritating - but there are some lines in there I absolutely adore. "Earth has waited for them, All the time of their growth Fretting for their decay:" is really ghoulish, and reminds me slightly of the start of '1 Henry IV', where the earth is described in similar terms - "No more the thirsty entrance of this soil Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood." Thata also ties in reasonably nicely with the "old sceptres" a few lines up, too - "Who hurled them out? Who hurled?". Nick. [Biography] born Nov. 25, 1890, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Eng. died April 1918, France British poet and painter killed in World War I. Rosenberg first trained to be a painter, winning several prizes at the Slade School of Art, London. He enlisted in the British Army in 1915 and is best known for his 'trench poems', written between 1916 and 1918, which showed great imaginative power and originality in imagery. His Collected Works, with a foreword by Siegfried Sassoon, first appeared in 1937; an edition by Ian Parsons including poetry, prose, letters, paintings and drawings, was published in 1979. -- EB