The Great War

from War, The Liberator and Other Pieces, an electronic edition

Ghosts of War

(Sent from France in October 1917)

WHEN you and I are buried

With grasses over head,

The memory of our fights will stand

Above this bare and tortured land,

We knew ere we were dead.

Though grasses grow on Vimy,

And poppies at Messines,

And in High Wood the children play,

The craters and the graves will stay

To show what things have been.

Though all be quiet in day-time,

The night shall bring a change,

And peasants walking home shall see

Shell-torn meadow and riven tree,

And their own fields grown strange.

They shall hear live men crying,

They shall see dead men lie,

Shall hear the rattling Maxims fire,

And see by broken twists of wire

Gold flares light up the sky.

And in their new-built houses

The frightened folk will see

Pale bombers coming down the street,

And hear the flurry of charging feet,

And the crash of Victory.

This is our Earth baptizèd

With the red wine of War.

Horror and courage hand in hand

Shall brood upon the stricken land

In silence evermore.