First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Nursery Memories

NURSERY MEMORIES by ROBERT GRAVES

I.---THE FIRST FUNERAL (The first corpse I saw was on the German wires, and couldn't be buried)

The whole field was so smelly; We smelt the poor dog first: His horrid swollen belly Looked just like going burst.

His fur was most untidy; He hadn't any eyes. It happened on Good Friday And there was lots of flies.

And then I felt the coldest I'd ever felt, and sick, But Rose, 'cause she's the oldest, Dared poke him with her stick.

He felt quite soft and horrid: The flies buzzed round his head And settled on his forehead: Rose whispered: 'That dog's dead.

'You bury all dead people, When they're quite really dead, Round churches with a steeple: Let's bury this,' Rose said.

'And let's put mint all round it To hide the nasty smell.' I went to look and found it--- Lots, growing near the well.

We poked him through the clover Into a hole, and then We threw brown earth right over And said: 'Poor dog, Amen!'

II.---THE ADVENTURE (Suggested by the claim of a machine-gun team to have annihilated an enemy wire party: no bodies were found however)

To-day I killed a tiger near my shack Among the trees: at least, it must have been, Because his hide was yellow, striped with black, And his eyes were green.

I crept up close and slung a pointed stone With all my might: I must have hit his head, For there he died without a twitch or groan, And he lay there dead.

I expect that he'd escaped from a Wild Beast Show By pulling down his cage with an angry tear; He'd killed and wounded all the people---so He was hiding there.

I brought my brother up as quick's I could But there was nothing left when he did come: The tiger's mate was watching in the wood And she'd dragged him home.

But, anyhow, I killed him by the shack, 'Cause---listen!---when we hunted in the wood My brother found my pointed stone all black With the clotted blood.

III.---I HATE THE MOON (After a moonlight patrol near the Brickstacks)

I hate the Moon, though it makes most people glad, And they giggle and talk of silvery beams---you know! But she says the look of the Moon drives people mad, And that's the thing that always frightens me so.

I hate it worst when it's cruel and round and bright, And you can't make out the marks on its stupid face, Except when you shut your eyelashes, and all night The sky looks green, and the world's a horrible place.

I like the stars, and especially the Big Bear And the W star, and one like a diamond ring, But I hate the Moon and its horrible stony stare, And I know one day it'll do me some dreadful thing.

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