The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

The Man in the Trench

Can you not hear me, young man in the street?

Is it nothing to you who pass by,

Who down the dim-lit ways in thousands roam?

From here I watch you, through the driving sleet,

Under the evening sky,

Hurrying home.

Home! -- how the word sounds like a bell --

I wonder can you know, as I know well,

That in this trench

Of death and stench

I stand between your home and hell.

I am the roof that shields you from the weather,

I am the gate that keeps the brigand back,

When pillage, fire, and murder come together,

I am the wall that saves your home from sack.

Man! when you look upon the girl you prize,

Can you imagine horror in those eyes?

You have not seen, you cannot understand,

This trench is England, all this ruined land

Is where you wander, street, or field, or strand,

Save for God's grace, and for the guns that rest

Upon this dripping mudbank of the west.

Our blood has stained your threshold -- will you stain

Your soul, give nothing and take all our gain?

Why did I come? I ask not, nor repent;

Something blazed up inside me, and I went.

The khaki fringe is frayed, and now a rent

Needs men -- needs men, and I am almost spent.

Night, and the "ready"... so sleep well, my friend...

The guns again are going... I must stick it to the end.