First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Ballad Of Many Thorns

THE BALLAD OF MANY THORNS by WILFRED OWEN

A Poet stood in parley With Carls a-reaping corn. Quoth one: 'I curse the Barley, More sharp than any thorn.'

'Although thy hand be torn, Ill-spoken was thy curse: I swear thou art forsworn, If Thistle wound not worse.'

So groaned a footsore Climber, Had scaled the bristly path: 'What thorns, Sir Carl, Sir Rimer, Like these the Thistle hath?'

Behold a wan youth ramble With bleeding cheeks forlorn, And moans: 'The wanton bramble, It is the keenest thorn.'

Rode by a wounded Warrior Deep muttering like a lion: 'Show me the flesh wound sorrier Than by the barb of Iron!'

Out laughed a man of folly, Much wine had made him thick: 'The jolly, festive Holly Deals oft a nasty prick.'

There hung near by a Jesus With crownèd head for scorn. 'Ah by His brow, who sees us, Was any like His thorn?'

So sighed a leprous Palmer. But when he thought afresh: 'Perchance His pain was calmer, Than this thorn in my flesh.'

Then cried the gentle Poet: 'Not one among ye knows: The cruelest thorn, I know it, For having kissed the Rose.'

I saw his round mouth's crimson deepen as it fell, Like a sun, in his last deep hour; Watched the magnificent recession of farewell, Clouding, half gleam, half glower, And a last splendour burn the heavens of his cheek. And in his eyes The cold stars lighting, very old and bleak, In different skies.

To view other similar items in the archive click on the hyper-linked words below.