First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Break of Day in the Trenches

BREAK OF DAY IN THE TRENCHES by ISAAC ROSENBERG

The darkness crumbles away. It is the same old Druid Time as ever. Only a live thing leaps my hand, A queer sardonic rat, As I pull the parapet's poppy To stick behind my ear. Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew Your cosmopolitan sympathies. Now you have touched this English hand You will do the same to a German Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure To cross the sleeping green between. It seems, odd thing, you grin as you pass Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes, Less chanced than you for life, Bonds to the whims of murder, Sprawled in the bowels of the earth, The torn fields of France. What do you see in our eyes At the shrieking iron and flame Hurl'd through still heavens? What quaver---what heart aghast? Poppies whose roots are in man's veins Drop, and are ever dropping, But mine in my ear is safe--- Just a little white with the dust.

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