First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Show

THE SHOW by WILFRED OWEN We have fallen in the dreams the ever-living Breathe on the tarnished mirror of the world, And then smooth out with ivory hands and sigh. W.B. YEATS

My soul looked down from a vague height, with Death, As unremembering how I rose of why, And saw a sad land, weak with sweats of death, Grey, createred like the moon with hollow woe, And pitted with great pocks and scabs of plagues.

Across its beard, that horror of harsh wire, There moved thin caterpillars, slowly uncoiled. It seemed they pushed themselves to be as plugs Of ditches, where they writhed and shrivelled, killed.

By them had slimy paths been trailed and scraped Round myriad warts that might be little hills.

From gloom's last dregs these long-strung creatures crept, And vanished out of dawn down hidden holes.

(And smell came up from those foul openings As out of mouths, or deep wounds deepening.)

On dithering feet upgathered, more and more, Brown strings, towards strings of grey, with bristling spines, All migrants from green fields, intent on mire.

Those that were grey, of more abundant spawns, Ramped on the rest and ate them and were eaten.

I saw their bitten backs curve, loop, and straighten. I watched those agonies curl, lift, and flatten.

Whereat, in terror what that sight might mean, I reeled and shivered earthward like a feather.

And Death fell with me, like a deepening moan. And He, picking a manner of worm, which half had hid Its bruises in the earth, but crawled no further, Showed me its feet, the feet of many men, And the fresh-severed head of it, my head.

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