The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

Headquarters

A league and a league from the trenches -- from the traversed maze of the lines,

Where daylong the sniper watches and daylong the bullet whines,

And the cratered earth is in travail with mines and with countermines --

Here, where haply some woman dreamed (are those her roses that bloom

In the garden beyond the windows of my littered working room?)

We have decked the map for our masters as a bride is decked for the groom.

Fair, on each lettered numbered square -- crossroad and mound and wire,

Loophole, redoubt, and emplacement -- lie the targets their mouths desire;

Gay with purples and browns and blues, have we traced them their arcs of fire.

And ever the type-keys chatter; and ever our keen wires bring

Word from the watchers a-crouch below, word from the watchers a-wing:

And ever we hear the distant growl of our hid guns thundering.

Hear it hardly, and turn again to our maps, where the trench lines crawl,

Red on the gray and each with a sign for the ranging shrapnel's fall --

Snakes that our masters shall scotch at down, as is written here on the wall.

For the weeks of our waiting draw to a close.... There is scarcely a leaf astir

In the garden beyond my windows, where the twilight shadows blur

The blaze of some woman's roses.... "Bombardment orders, sir."