Dead Man's Dump
DEAD MAN'S DUMP by ISAAC ROSENBERG
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 their 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 soul's 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.
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|Author||Rosenberg, Isaac (1890-1918)|
|Title||Dead Man's Dump|
|Copyright||The Isaac Rosenberg Literary Estate. Preliminaries and editorial matter omitted.|
|First line||The plunging limbers over the shattered|
|Publication source||The Collected Poems of Isaac Rosenberg|
|Publication editor||Bottomley, Gordon and Harding, Denys|
|Publishers||Chatto Windus Ltd.|
|Digital repository||The First World War Poetry Digital Archive|