Moonlight and dew-drenched blossom, and the scent Of summer gardens; these can bring you all Those dreams that in the starlit silence fall: Sweet songs are full of odours. While I went Last night in drizzling dusk along a lane, I passed a squalid farm; from byre and midden Came the rank smell that brought me once again A dream of war that in the past was hidden.
Up a disconsolate straggling village street I saw the tired troops trudge: I heard their feet. The cheery Q.M.S. was there to meet And guide our Company in... I watched them stumble Into some crazy hovel, too beat to grumble; Saw them file inward, slipping from their backs Rifles, equipment, packs. On filthy straw they sit in the gloom, each face Bowed to patched, sodden boots they must unlace, While the wind chills their sweat through chinks and cracks.
I’m looking at their blistered feet; young Jones Stares up at me, mud-splashed and white and jaded; Out of his eyes the morning light has faded. Old soldiers with three winters in their bones Puff their damp Woodbines, whistle, stretch their toes: They can still grin at me, for each of ’em knows That I’m as tired as they are... Can they guess The secret burden that is always mine?— Pride in their courage; pity for their distress; And burning bitterness That I must take them to the accursиd Line.
I cannot hear their voices, but I see Dim candles in the barn: they gulp their tea, And soon they’ll sleep like logs. Ten miles away The battle winks and thuds in blundering strife. And I must lead them nearer, day by day, To the foul beast of war that bludgeons life.