The Great War

from The Volunteer and Other Poems, an electronic edition

After the Salvo.

UP and down, up and down

They go, the gray rat, and the brown.

The telegraph lines are tangled hair,

Motionless on the sullen air

An engine has fallen on its back,

With crazy wheels, on a twisted track

All ground to dust is the little town.

Up and down, up and down

They go, the gray rat, and the brown

A skull, torn out of the graves near by,

Gapes in the grass. A butterfly,

In azure irridescence new,

Floats into the world, across the dew

Between the flow'rs. Have we lost our way,

Or are we toys of a god at play,

Who do these things on a young Spring day?

Where the salvo fell, on a splintered ledge

Of ruin, at the crater's edge,

A poppy lives: and young, and fair,

The dewdrops hang on the spider's stair,

With every rainbow still unhurt

From leaflet unto leaflet girt.

Man's house is crushed ; the spider's lives

Inscrutably He takes, and gives,

Who guards not any temple here,

Save the temple of the gossamer.

Up and down, up and down

They go, the gray rat and the brown:

A pistol cracks: they too are dead.

The nightwind rustles overhead.