In A Soldiers' Hospital 1: Pluck
- Crippled for life at seventeen,
His great eyes seems to question why:
with both legs smashed it might have been
Better in that grim trench to die
Than drag maimed years out helplessly.
- A child - so wasted and so white,
He told a lie to get his way,
To march, a man with men, and fight
While other boys are still at play.
A gallant lie your heart will say.
- So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread
To see the 'dresser' drawing near;
and winds the clothes about his head
That none may see his heart-sick fear.
His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.
- But when the dreaded moment's there
He'll face us all, a soldier yet,
Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,
(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his Woodbine cigarette.
- I dreamt last night Christ came to earth again
To bless His own. My soul from place to place
On her dream-quest sped, seeking for His face
Through temple and town and lovely land, in vain.
Then came I to a place where death and pain
Had made of God's sweet world a waste forlorn,
With shattered trees and meadows gashed and torn,
Where the grim trenches scarred the shell-sheared plain.
- And through that Golgotha of blood and clay,
Where watchers cursed the sick dawn, heavy-eyed,
There (in my dream) Christ passed upon His way,
Where His cross marks their nameless graves who died
Slain for the world's salvation where all day
For others' sake strong men are crucified.
- The pain and laughter of the day are done
So strangely hushed and still the long ward seems,
Only the Sister's candle softly beams.
Clear from the church near by the clock strikes 'one';
And all are wrapt away in secret sleep and dreams.
- Here one cries sudden on a sobbing breath,
Gripped in the clutch of some incarnate fear
What terror through the darkness draweth near?
What memory of carnage and ofdeath
What vanished scenes of dread to his closed eyes appear?
- And one laughs out with an exultant joy.
An athlete he - Maybe his young limbs strain
In some remembered game, and not in vain
To win his side the goal - Poor crippled boy,
Who in the waking world will never run again.
- One murmurs soft and low a woman's name;
And here a vet'ran soldier calm and still
As sculptured marble sleeps, and roams at will
Through eastern lands where sunbeams scorch like flame,
By rich bazaar and town, and wood-wrapt snow-crowned hill.
- Through the wide open window on great star,
Swinging her lamp above the pear-tree high,
Looks in upon these dreaming forms that lie
So near in body, yet in soul so far
As those bright worlds thick strewn ion that vast depth of sky.
In A Soldiers' Hospital II: Gramophone Tunes
- Through the long ward the gramophone
Grinds out its nasal melodies:
"Where did you get that girl?" it shrills.
The patients listen at their ease,
Through clouds of strong tobacco smoke:
The gramophone can always please.
- The Welsh boy has it by his bed,
(He's lame - one leg blown away -
He'll lie propped up with pillows there,
And wind the handle half the day.
His neighbour, with the shattered arm,
Picks out the records he must play.
- Jock with his crutches beats the time;
The gunner, with his head close-bound,
Listen with puzzled, patient smile:
(Shell shocked-he cannot hear a sound).
The others join in from their beds,
And send the chorus rolling round.
- Somehow for me these common tunes
Can never sound the same again:
They've magic now to thrill my heart
And bring before me, clear and plain,
Man that is master of his flesh,
And has the laugh of death and pain.