The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

Retreat

Broken, bewildered by the long retreat

Across the stifling leagues of southern plain,

Across the scorching leagues of trampled grain,

Half-stunned, half-blinded, by the trudge of feet

And dusty smother of the August heat,

He dreamt of flowers in an English lane,

Of hedgerow flowers glistening after rain --

All-heal and willow-herb and meadow-sweet.

All-heal and willow-herb and meadow-sweet --

The innocent names kept up a cool refrain --

All-heal and willow-herb and meadow-sweet,

Chiming and tinkling in his aching brain,

Until he babbled like a child again --

"All-heal and willow-herb and meadow-sweet."