Three Songs Of The Enigma

I

SOMETHING

How long I have wished for something I know well,
But what that something is I cannot tell.

So often at sunrise in sad tears I wake
Shivering with longing for its sake;

So often at noontide when the house is still
It sickens me with its unbidden ill;

So often at twilight it does not seem far,
Not further than the first and far-off star;

All, all my life is built towards its token
Yet by its near far-offness I am broken.

For I am ever under something's spell,
But what that something is I cannot tell.


II

A WANDERING THING

The hopeless rain, a sigh, a shadow
Falters and drifts again, again over the meadow,
It wanders lost, drifts hither . . . thither,
It blows, it goes, it knows not whither.

A profound grief, an unknown sorrow
Wanders always my strange life thoro',
I know not ever what brings it hither,
Nor whence it comes . . . nor goes it whither.


III

MODERN LOVE SONG

Now that the evenfall is come,
And the sun fills the flaring trees
And everything is mad, lit, dumb,
And in the pauses of the breeze
A far voice seems to call me home
To haven beyond woods and leas.

I feel again how sharply stings
The spell which binds our troubled dust
With hint of divine frustrated things,—
The Soul's deep doubt and desperate trust
That She at sunset shall find wings
To bear her beyond NOW and MUST.

So place your head against my head,
And set your lips upon my lips
That so I may be comforted,—
For Ah ! the world so from me slips,
To the World-Sunset I am sped
Where Soul and Silence come to grips
And Love stands sore-astonished.

1.
Noon

It is midday; the deep trench glares….
A buzz and blaze of flies….
The hot wind puffs the giddy airs….
The great sun rakes the skies.

No sound in all the stagnant trench
Where forty standing men
Endure the sweat and grit and stench,
Like cattle in a pen.

Sometimes a sniper's bullet whirs
Or twangs the whining wire,
Sometimes a soldier sighs and stirs
As in hell's frying fire.

From out a high, cool cloud descends
An aeroplane's far moan,
The sun strikes down, the thin cloud rends….
The black speck travels on.

And sweating, dazed, isolate
In the hot trench beneath,
We bide the next shrewd move of fate
Be it of life or death.

2.
Night Bombardment


Softly in the silence the evening rain descends….
The soft wind lifts the rain-mist, flurries it, and spends
Itself in mournful sighs, drifting from field to field,
Soaking the draggled sprays which the low hedges wield
As they labour in the wet and the load of the wind.
The last light is dimming. Night comes on behind.

I hear no sound but the wind and the rain,
And trample of horses, loud and lost again
Where the wagons in the mist rumble dimly on
Bringing more shell.
The last gleam is gone.
It is not day or night; only the mists unroll
And blind with their sorrow the sight of my soul.
I hear the wind weeping in the hollow overhead:
She goes searching for the forgotten dead
Hidden in the hedges or trodden into muck
Under the trenches or maybe limply stuck
Somewhere in the branches of a high, lonely tree -
He was a sniper once. They never found his body.

I see the mist drifting. I hear the wind, the rain,
And on my clammy face the oozed breath of the slain
Seems to be blowing. Almost I have heard
In the shuddering drift the lost dead's last word:
Go home, go home, go to my house,
Knock at the door, knock hard, arouse
My wife and the children - that you must do -
What d' you say? - Tell the children too -
Knock at the door, knock hard, and arouse
The living. Say: the dead won't come back to this house.
Oh… but it's cold - I soak in the rain -
Shrapnel found me - I shan't go home again.
No, not home again - The mourning voices trail
Away into rain, into darkness… the pale
Soughing of the night drifts on in between.

The Voices were as if the dead had never been.

O melancholy heavens, O melancholy fields!
The glad, full darkness grows complete and shields
Me from your appeal.

With a terrible delight
I hear far guns low like oxen, at the night.

Flames disrupt the sky. The work is begun.
'Action!' My guns crash, flame, rock, and stun
Again and again. Soon the soughing night
Is loud with their clamour and leaps with their light.

The imperative chorus rises sonorous and fell:
My heart glows lighted as by fires of hell,
Sharply I pass the terse orders down.
The guns stun and rock. The hissing rain is blown
Athwart the hurtling shell that shrilling, shrilling goes
Away into the dark to burst a cloud of rose
Over their trenches.

A pause: I stand and see
Lifting into the night like founts incessantly,
The pistol-lights' pale spores upon the glimmering air…
Under them furrowed trenches empty, pallid, bare….
And rain snowing trenchward ghostly and white,
O dead in the hedges, sleep ye well to-night!

The beating of the guns grows louder.
'Not long, boys, now.'
My heart burns whiter, fearfuller, prouder;
Hurricanes grow
As guns redouble their fire.
Through the shaken periscope peeping
I glimpse their wire:
Black earth, fountains of earth rise, leaping,
Spouting like shocks of meeting waves.
Death's fountains are playing,
Shells like shrieking birds rush over;
Crash and din rises higher.
A stream of lead raves
Over us from the left… (we safe under cover!)
Crash. Reverberation. Crash!
Acrid smoke billowing. Flash upon flash.
Black smoke drifting. The German line
Vanishes in confusion, smoke. Cries, and cry
Of our men, 'Gah! yer swime,
You're for it,' die
In a hurricane of shell….
One cry;
'We're comin' soon! look out!'
There is opened hell
Over there. Fragments fly,
Rifles and bits of men whirled at the sky:
Dust, smoke, thunder. A sudden bout
Of machine-guns chattering….
And redoubled battering
As if in fury at their daring….

No good staring.

Time soon now… home… house on a sunlit hill….

Gone like a flickered page.
Time soon now… zero… will engage…

A sudden thrill.
'Fix bayonets.'
Gods! we have our fill
Of fear, hysteria, exultation, rage -
Rage to kill….

My heart burns hot, whiter and whiter,
Contracts tighter and tighter,
Until I stifle with the will
Long forged, now used -
(Though utterly strained)
O pounding heart,
Baffled, confused,
Heart panged, head singing dizzily pained -
To do my part.

Blindness a moment. Sick.
There the men are.
Bayonets ready: click!
Time goes quick;
A stumbled prayer… somehow a blazing star
In a blue night… where?
Again prayer.
The tongue trips. Start:
How's time? Soon now. Two minutes or less.
The guns' fury mounting higher.
Their utmost. I lift a silent hand. Unseen I bless
Those hearts will follow me.
And beautifully
Now beautifully my will grips.
Soul calm and round and filmed and white!

A shout! 'Men, no such order as retire!'
I nod.
The whistle's twixt my lips….
I catch
A wan, worn smile at me.
Dear men!
The pale wrist-watch….
The quiet hand ticks on amid the din.
The guns again
Rise to a last fury, to a rage, a lust:
Kill! Pound! Kill! Pound! Pound!
Now comes the thrust,
My part… dizziness… will… but trust
These men. The great guns rise.
Their fury seems to burst the earth and skies!

They - lift!

Gather, heart, all thoughts that drift;
Be steel, soul.
Compress thyself
Into a round, bright whole.

I cannot speak.

Time! Time!

I hear my whistle shriek
Between teeth set,
I fling an arm up,
Scramble up the grime
Over the parapet!

I'm up. Go on.
Something meets us.
Head down into the storm that greets us.
A wail!
Lights. Blurr.
Gone.
On, on. Lead. Lead. Hail.
Spatter. Whirr. Whirr.
'Toward that patch of brown,
Direction left.' Bullets: a stream.
Devouring thought crying in a dream;
Men, crumpled, going down….
Go on. Go.
Deafness, Numbness. The loudening tornado.
Bullets. Mud. Stumbling and skating.
My voice's strangled shout:-
'Steady pace, boys!'
The still light: gladness.
'Look, sir, look out!-'
Ha! Ha! Bunched figures waiting.
Revolver levelled: quick!
Flick! Flick!
Red as blood.
Germans. Germans.
Good! Oh, good!

Cool madness.

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