First World War Poetry Digital Archive

In War

IN WAR by ISAAC ROSENBERG

Fret the nonchalant noon With your spleen Or your gay brow, For the motion of your spirit Ever moves with these.

When day shall be too quiet, Deaf to you And your dumb smile, Untuned air shall lap the stillness In the old space for your voice---

The voice that once could mirror Remote depths Of moving being, Stirred by responsive voices near, Suddenly stilled for ever.

No ghost darkens the places Dark to One; But my eyes dream, And my heart is heavy to think How it was heavy once.

In the old days when death Stalked the world For the flower of men, And the rose of beauty faded And pined in the great gloom,

One day we dug a grave: We were vexed With the sun's heat. We scanned the hooded dead: At noon we sat and talked

How death had kissed their eyes Three dread noons since, How human art won The dark soul to flicker Till it was lost again:

And we whom chance kept whole--- But haggard, Spent---were charged To make a place for them who knew No pain in any place.

The good priest came to pray; Our ears half heard, And half we thought Of alien things, irrelevant; And the heat and thirst were great.

The good priest read: 'I heard ...' Dimly my brain Held words and lost... Sudden my blood ran cold... God! God! it could not be.

He read my brother's name; I sank--- I clutched the priest. They did not tell me it was he Was killed three days ago.

What are the great sceptred dooms To us, caught In the wild wave? We break ourselves on them, My brother, our hearts and years.

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