Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
And You
29th Jun 2016Posted in: Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets 0

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“And You!”

By
KIM BEATTIE

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TORONTO: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF CANADA LIMITED, AT ST. MARTIN’S HOUSE
1929
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PRINTED IN CANADA
T.H. BEST PRINTING CO., LIMITED
TORONTO, ONT.
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To
PETER
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I do not seek to stir an old stern sorrow
     Nor probe old wounds of grieving and of pain;
I only write that my old mates may borrow
     A glimpse along their old trails once again. [unnumbered page]

“And You!”, the favourite retort of the private soldier, is title to this collection of verse. Despite being on a man’s job, the soldier was pure boy. And like a boy he loved to jeer. The meeting of rival services on the roads was the signal for a flow of exceeding offensive, though always good-natured unpleasantries, anent each other’s ancestry, appearance, and past performances. The least fluent, had been a boy, might have retorted, “You’re another!” And the soldier, when he could find no fitting response, fell back upon “And you!” His vocabulary of revilings was full, but “And you!” was a last resort—a satisfaction and the sign of his devil-may-care heart.
Many of the verses in this volume have appeared at various times in The Evening Telegram, Toronto, and many others in Canadian War Stories. Occasionally verses have appeared in Willison’s Monthly, the Toronto Star Weekly, the Legionary, the Veteran, The Mail and Empire of Toronto, the London Free Press, the Goat and Carry On. The author appreciates permission to republish them.
The author also wishes to thank Fredrick B. Strangways for his valuable assistance. [unnumbered page]

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CONTENTS

PAGE
Laddie O’ Mine 1
Ho!—Valhalla!—Shun! 2
The Song of Death 4
Wiped Out! 6
Dawn Patrol 7
The First Gas 8
Cheated 9
P.B.I. 12
“Ammunition Up!” 13
It’s “Quiet!” 14
The Kid 15
Broken Wings 16
Furlough! 17
There’s Laughter in the Graves of the old Contemptibles 20
Where the Best Men Ride 21
Attack! 22
The Carrier Pigeon 26
“Damn-Damn!” Says the Infantree 27
Dream’s End 29
Bomb-Proofers 30
Star Shells 35
A Carrying Party 36
Billets 37
New Year’s Eve 38
A Letter to a Friend 39
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The Immortal Salient 40
The “Hopeless” Ward 42
The Ration Thief 44
“Missing!” 46
Behind the Hindering Wire 50
Feud of the Blue! 51
The Singers! 52
Wounded! 53
The Flying Column 54
After Vimy 56
They Will Shout Defiance Down the Years 58
The Cock-Crow 59
Slink, the Rat 60
The Last Great Roll Call 63
“Mac” Macklem o’ the Guns 64
“Runners!—on-the-Double!” 69
The Miracle 70
Evening Hate 71
The Crimson Tide 72
The Raiders 76
Torpedoed 78
What the Hell’s it Matter? 79
Cold-Steel and Fate 80
The Law o’ the Feet! 83
Invincible 84
In the Last Days 87
The Reunion 88
The Vision 90
All’s Well 91
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“And You!”
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Laddie O’ Mine

OH, Laddie, good-bye—ah, now, you’re gone,
Gone with your jacket and gay bonnet on;

They all grew the same, first ‘twas the school—
Stay with your mither, ah, but it’s cruel—
You’re ever so little, too little for school.

They all had your eyes, they’d twinket with glee,
Twinket with laughter when they were but three—
Oh, laddie, my laddie, why can’t you stay wee?

Oh, laddie o’ mine, then will you not stay?
You must be a sojer, and must be away?

Stay with your mither—the times we have had—
You’re ever so little— you’re no but a lad!

Oh, laddie, you’re gone—ah, then, you’re gone;
Gone in your khaki with proud bonnet on.

Oh, laddie, your eyes, ah, how they shone,
Shone at your mither and twinket with glee,
Twinket with laughter when you were but three—
Oh, laddie, my laddie, you would not stay wee! [page 1]

Ho!—Valhalla!—Shun!
MY COMMANDER

BEYOND the clouds of conflict; beyond the crimson ways;
Beyond the shock of battle; beyond the reddened days;
Beyond the crash of combat; beyond the peaceful stars;
Beyond all sounds of struggle await the Sons of Mars!
Oh! Not for common souls do such strong men arise,
But now the order rolls beyond those ‘sundered skies;

“Men of war, make way! A fighting chieftain comes! 
   Hark to the wailing pipers! Hark to the sobbing drums! 
   Herken now, each rank!”—the thund’rous echoes run—
   “Men of war, make way!—

                                      Ho!
                                        Valhalla!
                                            Shun!”

And here are prideful heroes who had no fear to die;
And here are souls who suffered to hold their honour high;
And here hearts of laughter with mirth to meet red rage;
And here are kings and captains from every roaring age!
Oh! Not for puny dead do such souls stand aside,
But every rank gives head to swell his heart with pride: [page 2]

“Men of war, make way! A master leader comes!
   Hark to the mourning pipers! Hark to the muffled drums!
   Hearken now, each rank!”—the sounding orders run—
   “Men of war, make way!—
                                   Ho! 
                                      Valhalla!
                                                   Shun!”

And first to pay him homage as they who knew his worth;
And they who by his order were hurtled from the earth;
They tell their chieftan’s story, and loud approval runs
And rolls, and throbs and echoes like thunder of his guns!
Oh! Seldom fighter’s life has known such proud acclaim, 
As these, who died in strife, saluted as he came:

“Men of war, make way! A mighty marshal comes!
   Hark to the wailing pipers! Hark to the sobbing drums!
   Hearken now, each rank!”—their warrior-greetings run—
   “Men of war, make way! 
                                 Ho!
                                      Valhalla!
                                                   Shun!” [page 3]

The Song of Death

A FEAR-BORN host attacks!
A cold, scared rifle cracks!
   A startled star-shell soars!
The trench eyes strain and peer
As the shadows slip and smear
   On the haggard, forlorn floors!

A toc-toc chatters high!
His craft, across, reply;
   The peace of night’s swift gone,
For the Devil’s Roaring Choir
With a storm of frantic fire
   In the Song of Death sweeps on!

A sheeting white-flame stuns,
From shudd’ring sky-line runs
   The warn of awful joining of the guns!
A clap of thunder jumps
From a thousand back-line clumps
   In crimson, crashing chorus of the guns!

The field guns snarl and bark,
Their tonguing thrums the dark,
   Till the mighty jabber swells,
As “How’s” dread dooms are thrown
With a spanking baritone
   And the whamping echo dwells! 

Nine-inchers belch applause
And droop with gasping jaws,
   And the pack is in full cry! [page 4]
The gun-pits sweat and slave
Till the frenzied drummers rave
   And the Song of Death rolls high!

A Chord of Doom deep runs,
Beneath those bedlamed ones,
   A grim sonorous timing for the guns;
As the blasting navals pant
Their steady, pulsing chant
   ‘Neath crimson, crashing chorus of the guns!

The front-line dugouts shake!
The puny timbers quake!
   The candle flames and falls!
The crowded stairways rock
To the rend and pound and shock,
   But the sentries hug the walls!

For the martyrs wait without
Where the goring geysers shout
And the foolish trench-work goes;
Where the hurtled horrors crash
In a sudden, spouting splash
   And the Song of Death fierce flows!

The mad crescendo runs
On the woeful, waiting ones;
   The huddled world is writhing ‘neath the guns!
The detonations blend
Till the split sky-moorings bend
   In crimson, crashing chorus of the guns! [page 5]

Wiped Out!

BLAST it, Chet, come on, come on,
I’ve a five-franc bill or two;
We’ll buy some beer from little Yvette,
We’ll try to forget, forget, forget,
Come on, come on, and we’ll try it, Chet!

   … God, and poor Danny’s gone!
     Down in a dawn set-to!
   Him with the laugh and the guts of ten—
     Guts in a dawn stand-to!
Little Yvette, she’ll miss some men
     Who crowded her place for a month or so,
Scott and Walkie and Varney and Yank—
     Why IS it always the best that go?

   God, for one finger of rum!
     Don’t take it like this, old man;
Come on, come on, and we’ll try it, Chet!
We’ll try to forget, forget, forget,
Your brother would like us to see Yvette,
     That’s waiting at Ouderdom!

     …Say, he went game, did Dan!
   He went for six at the hedge ahead,
      Heart of a fighter had Dan!
When Dan was here it was him that led
    The gang to Yvette’s of an afternoon,
Come on, sing, here’s little Yvette—
     Yvette, Yvette, we’re the whole platoon! [page 6]

Dawn Patrol

A KNIGHT of the Air’s in the wraith-wisps,
    Riding the vapouring spires,
He’s screaming alone through the cloud void,
    Scolding with snickering wires;

He roars through abysses of blueness;
     Scorns down the empty, cold miles;
His motors start howling in anger—
      “Black Cross” is in his blue aisles!

He climbs for the roof of the darer;
     Scraping the gray floors of space;
Relentlessly banking and turning;
     Whining with glee in the chase!

He dives with a sun-glinting belly,
     Steep on the tail of his foe;
His gibbering guns spurt a death-stream—
     “Black Cross” spins flaming below!

Down, down, where the cobbles are snaking,
    Marked by the poplars that line,
He’s smoking and flopping and twisting—
    Crashes! And crumples his spine!

A cheer faintly floats toward the victor;
     Faces are blurred round the huts;
A gambler collects on the dog-fight—
     “God! But that lad has his guts!” [page 7]

The First Gas
Before St. Julien, the Canadian soldier carried on the war with his enemy without bitterness, simply believing that a job must be done.

WE’RE back of a copse an’ we’ve dug a hole
For six of the men from “D”,
An’ there ain’t no band to play
Whilst we’re layin’ them away
   —God an’ just us will see!

The cowardly bastard! He done this job;
   They’re strangled an’ choked wi’ gas;
An’ they had no chance to croak
Like a fightin’ sojer broke
   —God’ll never let this pass!

The Sergeant, he rifled their pockets clean;
Their faces are bloated blue;
An’ we cringe beside the grave
But the padre, he’s more brave
   —God’ll see His Pilot through!

We didn’t come hating an’ thought that War
   An’ battle was just fair fight;
But we’ll stick him just like swine
An’ we’ll break his bloody line
   —God’ll help us put this right!

The parson, he’s chokin’: “Thy Will Be Done”.
But this wasn’t done fair-play!
Yes, he’s sobbin’: “Dust to Dust!”
But they broke the Fighter’s trust
   —God! Give us strength to pay! [page 8]

Cheated
Four years the cavalry waited before flowing through a gap into the open country beyond. But, during the dead-locked period, they were given many tasks and not the least was a valiant aid as emergency stretcher bearers when the flood of wounded was heavy.

CHEATED of the chance to ride
    Plunging and thund’ring through;
Troopers dreaming the Trooper’s Dream:
    Ride! Ride into the blue!
Sweeping into the distance,
   Straight for a cloud-hung spire,
Surging into the smoke-wreath
   Rimmed by spirtles of fire!
Waiting the warn of the trumpet,
   Woeful, they serve betimes—
Sweating the broken sloggers down
    Out of the crimson climes!

* * * * *

The fight is done and the high ground taken;
   Chalk-white masks stare up to the moon;
See! They’re dotting that God-forsaken
    Hillside, there, where they’ve lain from noon!
‘Tis night, and truce, and the ghoulish shadows
    Peer at the dead on the shambled plain:
See! They’re prowling those riven meadows
    Seeking for life in the sprawling slain! 

“… Hurry, Danny, I felt him heaving;
     I heard the sob of a breath in him!
God!  Too late!  ‘Twas life just leaving—
     I heard the soul soughing out from him! [page 9]
Shift him Danny, another’s under—
     Hurry, hurry, the sky grows gray!”
(But Trooper Danny is retching yonder—
     He took an arm and it tore away!)

“Hearken, Danny, there’s something moaning;
     Look, look there where that coal-box hit!
Was it the wail of the wind intoning?
     Or choking gasps from yon crater pit?
Damn! It’s dark, and he’s in a puddle;
     His ribs are bashed and he’s bleeding bad;
There’s his Loot in a lonesome huddle;
     Hustle him onto the stretcher, lad.”

They fumble and bind in fitful darkness
     A writhing thing that whimpers and twists,
And in a rocket’s revealing starkness
     They clinch a thong on the ragged wrists;
And gently they strain and lurch and carry;
      The dressings already a darkening stain;
He raves at them that they will not tarry
     And let him sink in his fog of pain!

“Look out, Danny, a salvo’s coming—
     Shove him into this trench awhile!
Wonder why all the line is strumming,
      Drumming it up in that wind-up style?
Come on, Danny, to hell with cover—
Easy, easy don’t jar him now!
We’ll take him down and we’ll fetch another,
    He who screams on that redoubt’s brow. [page 10]

“Whew! But that is a stiff strafe blowing;
     Wipe the blood from the stretcher, there;
Snipe your gasper and let’s get going,
Trouble is thick on the anxious air!
Blast it!  There go the clustered Vereys—
     Yellow and green—now hell with blow!
Ah! But when will we ride for the Jerries,
     Flank to flank as we thought we’d go?”

* * * * *

Cheated of the chance to ride
     Gaily and blithely through!
Troopers dreaming the Trooper’s Dream:
     Ride! Ride into the blue!
Chafing and champing and eager;
     Taut for the reeling lists—
Sink the spurs to the rowell-hub,
      Ride for the spurting mists!
Hurl on the Uhlan Squadron—
     Lunge for the “Leutnant’s” roan—
Feeling the stinging sabre
      Crunching through the bone! [page 11]

P.B.I.

“Battal—yun! SHUN!”
THE too taut back of the youthful Loot
Eased on staccato command:
   “Battalion will move in column of route—“
     Steady the companies stand!

“Form—FOURS! RIGHT!”
   The Regiment turns as a cadent mass;
     Smartly the movements run;
   With click and a step and glint on brass
      And steel in the dropping sun.

“Left—WHEEL! Qu—ICK—MARCH!”
The pipes come in with a skirl and flair.
     The drums boom--boom on the word.
   The heads are high as they swing to dare
      Where threat of the night runs blurred.

* * * * *

   In the quiet pall of the aftermath
       That follows on every storm,
    The remnants are taking the outward path
       And, thin, on the square reform.

“Battal—yun! SHUN!”
The silence waits!  The lines of brown
     In weariness weave in their ranks;
   The Colonel’s eye runs sorrowing down
     And men fall-out on the flanks. [page 12]

“Call the roll! Report Comp’nies!”
The Adjutant’s white as the answers fail.
The sergeants make bitter notation.
   The Captains’ voices in grim tell-tale
      Come hollow in swift rotation.

“Dis—MISS!”
   The ranks fall-out and straggle and go
     To sleep in relief from strain—
   The Major mutters: “Thank God, they don’t know,
     At daylight—it’s ‘IN’ again!”

“Ammunition Up!”

A BATTERY brawls miles to the northward;
   “Toc-toc!” a lone Lewis berates;
Then silence ‘tween far-off horizons;
    Brooding, the afternoon waits;

Till limbers dare day down the cobble;
   Curses are urging each moke;
A scream and a crash—and they’re spotted!
     Thunder rolls out from the smoke!

The skinners pull whip in a panic.
     “Blast it! The gun-pits are short!
“It’s bloody-well through hell-for-leather!
      Through, or go down like a sport!”

The splinters zing-zut on their metal;
      Frenzied, the crazed column runs!
The drivers lean low the saddle!
     Reeling, they swing to the guns! [page 13]

It’s “Quiet”!

IN a château as safe as a cellar in Galt
     And twice as bomb-proof as St. Louis,
The Brass Hats arise for the war about nine,
And pray that the day will stay peaceful and fine,
And groan: “We must visit our section of line—
     “Our G.O.C.’s horrible to us!”

   Now be careful for God, King and Country, by gad,
     Ah, what are those thunderous snorts?
—There’ll be an offensive “too-sweetly”, my lad,
    When Brass Hats are seen in supports!

Then they call on an outfit that lies in reserve;
     They’re certain no outfit is tougher!
“Kar-umph!” says a Noise with an Iron Pig’s bile!
“Kar-ung!” says another in Woolly-bear style!
“We’ll go!” says Brass Hat—and the Line for a mile
      Starts begging old Fritz to get rougher!

Oh, they hustle for God, King and Country, by gad,
They puff with a panicky grunt!
They’ll report with a proud, gallant, flourish, my lad;
“Sir!  We have toured round the front!” [page 14]

The Kid

WE found him in the morning,
     When the strafe grew still,
Lying with his comrades
      Where we took the hill;
They looked like lonely rag-dolls,
      Still, there in the sun;
Flung down, then forgotten,
      When the game was done!

* * * * *

We buried him that night, with the silver loops of light,
     Threw brooding shadows ‘cross that brow of tears,
While a Boche machine-gun’s tongue, as its menace coldly swung,
      Was jeering at his grave with cackling sneers.
No word of prayer we said, we did it fast, in dread,
      Then swaying on its steel his rifle stood, 
To mark him on his hill, while we paid off his bill—
     Oh, we paid it off with interest, when we could!

He was honest; he was clean; so we couldn’t do it mean;
     His fighting and his living he did square;
He was so straight and fine, that we old sweats, in wine,
     In after days, have wished we’d played life fair;
Have wished we’d gone, quick, clean—to go we’re not so keen—
     We know we wait our turn to fry The Grid;
But we think of him and know that he never squealed to go—
     Oh, he made a pukkha soldier did the kid! [page 15]

Broken Wings

YOUNG dreams had these of the tides of tang,
     Of storm and a wild wind racing;
Of the lost, lone lanes Adventure sang,
     Of the thrill of a hazards’s facing;
Sang of the lure of a world to round,
     Of trails to the world’s end swinging;
Of the deeds of men that still resound
     And still set a young heart ringing!

So swift they sprang, as the swept sky swings,
     To add to their decade’s story,
That a lad may sail on his silver wings
      To the golden rolls of Glory!

For here was their Viking dream come true,
     A risk for a blithe heart’s scorning,
To lift alone to the endless blue
     And fade on the Wings of Morning;
Pass in the path of the bannered sun,
     With God and the gray cloud witness,
That dream of a young high heart is won;
     To die with a brave man’s fitness!

From the fogs of doubt to a sun-bright strand
     On the Sparkling Shores of Splendour;
Where Christ is taking the Sky-man’s hand,
     For the Brave Man’s God is tender! [page 16]

Furlough!

THREE rollicking, reeling roisterers
      Came rolling up the Strand,
The threat of the Gun’s behind them,
     On leave on the King’s Command!
Three rollicking, reeling roisters,
     Released from War’s alarms,
Shall drain the dregs of London Town
     In the comradeship of arms!

“We’re three buccaneers, three gay cavaliers,
     Swashbucklers come straight from the Line!
We’re heedless, we’re breezy, we’re careless, we’re easy,
     We strut and we swagger and shine! 
Ho! Landlord, we thirst! Fill high! ‘Tis the first!
Drink hearty!  To-morrow—who knows?”
(A harlot’s hard smiling, the buckoes beguiling)
     “—No, dearie, don’t tell us your woes!”

“There’s kilts with a swing and there’s spurs with a ring—
     The artillery supports on the right!
We’re swanky, we’re loud, we’re cocky, we’re proud,
     And we boast of three regiments’ might!
Oh! We meant to stay sober and view London over,
     The Tower, Tussaud’s and the Zoo,
But a life can be brief and the flood of the relief
     Has us toasting each service in brew! 

We’re drunk and we leer and we crime-sheetwards steer,
      We’re certain to see Bow Street clink,
But ages of strain and of fear and of pain
      Take high payment in living and drink! [page 17]
Ho! Living is laughter! Forget the Hereafter!
      Don’t hamper, don’t hinder our play,
There’s half of it gone and we’re soon passing on—
     Don’t blame, don’t condemn if we’re gay!

We’re the Colonel’s disgrace and we’re hitting the pace;
     Drink merry while time there’s to spare!
One year we’ve had strife—Ho! Ho! We have life!
     Fill high and we’ll banish dull care!
We’re soon below sod but the sojerman’s God
     Understandingly judges of wrong—
He knows that war breeds both great and week deeds
     And impulse that’s reckless and strong!

Ho! Landlord, we sorrow, fill high, for to-morrow
     High Life and the furlough’s no more;
To-morrow we travel, our Fate we’ll unravel,
     Fill high, for we’re sorrowing sore.
Ho! Ho! Join our song for we’ll soon pass along
     To be gulped in the Fight of Fights,
And a spectre of dread is astir in each head
     —Drink merry to-night of all nights!

The morning breaks gray and we’ve little to say
      And remorse is beginning to sear;
A gripping chill starts into three leaden hearts
     And it’s hopeless and secret and sheer;
But we whistle quick-time to Bow Bells on the chime
     And we laugh and we chaff as we dowse,
Though, we’re lonesome, not gay, need comfort, not play;
     Dream of Mother, not wanton carouse. [page 18]

Trench mud’s on the packs that we curse to our backs,
     Our train for Southampton’s at two—
Who’ll know how we feel when we merrily reel
     Down the platform at old Waterloo?

* * * * *

The Channel lies grim and our mirth has gone dim
     For black are the shadows ahead;
Yet we grin and pretend that we’re still on the bend
     Though pacing dark decks with our dread!
We roar one more tune at the damned leering moon,
     That jeers, for he knows what’s before,
And the whimpering breeze, fresh in from clean seas,
     Meets laughter from three bound for war!

Ho! Ho! For a year, for it’s inwards we steer!
     Ho! Soldier! To-morrow—we know!
We know, but who cares? We’ll handle Fate’s shares!
     Sing merry! We’ve lived! Cheer—i—o!

Three rollicking, reeling roisterers
     Went rolling down the Strand!
Lived on the red for a fortnight
     Then back on the King’s Command!
Three rollicking, reeling roisterers
     With gallant fighting hearts,
Went back to death, defying dread,
     The dread of the Fighting Parts! [page 19]

There’s Laughter in the Graves of The Old Contemptibles

GALLANT men and gutful men, whose drums dared battle;
     Gentlemen, rapscallions, all swinging to the beat;
Scorned men, contempted men—the bold-locks rattle,
     Holding well the battle till the dreaded word: Retreat!

Back they went and blasting it, the gray hordes swarming;
     Crashing on the stubborn wake that guards the ordered flight!
Scorned men, contempted men, the gray waves storming, 
      Whelming down the sacrifice, and bitter wells the fight!

Back and back and cursing it, the night-rims burning;
     Fighting now and fleeing now and crimson rise the days;
Scorned men, contempted men, the slow miles turning,
     Slogging it so wearily all down the woeful ways.

Foot by foot and hating it, the red wrath flowing,
     Roaring from the stricken skies across the pleading land;
Scorned men, contempted men, the lone mounds growing,
     Dying there and wondering—until the Stand Command! [page 20]

Gallant men and gutful men, those lone mounds after;
     Gentlemen, rapscallions, who would not ask for more;
Scornful and contemptuous now—those grim graves’ laughter—
     Mocking on the clamoured cries of those that “Won the War”!

Where the Best Men Ride

THE wind of the Fall has a rollicking rune
And a wintry threat and a strident croon,
And the mad trees writhe to the trumpeting tune;
But these are the things that my small son hears
And sees in the night where his bright eye peers—
Oh, he doesn’t know that to dream is vain
With a small nose pressed to the window pane!

There’s a clanking of sabre to the charger’s prance
And tossing of plumes as the blown leaves dance
Where the troopers swoop on a warrior’s chance,
And he’s in the van where the best men ride
And his lance is bright and he bursts with pride,
A Knight faring forth on a brave man’s game—
Oh, he doesn’t know that world is tame!

He’s a man amongst men, where the brave have lined,
And he’s out in the night with his face to the wind,
And he cows down the craven self that whined!
And he makes a vow and a brave young plan
That he’ll be a man when he is a man—
Oh, it may be that to dream’s not vain
With a small nose pressed to the window pane! [page 21]

Attack!

1—WAITING FOR ZERO

LOOK at ‘em! Whole damn trench with the shakes!
Waiting, waiting,
Wondering, wondering—
Look at Harry—silly smile he’s got.
Good lad, Harry.
Look—Mutimer—looking brave—
Feels like hell, really;
There’s Cap Girvin,
Synchronising watches;
Soon, soon, the sky-line’s lighter!

Burr-r—I’m cold!
(Five Minutes)
Harry’s writing—silly ass!
Somebody else’ll mail it maybe.
First time for Harry—got a kid, too!
Damn it, don’t think, don’t think,
All be a dream to-morrow,
Crazy dream
Or nothing!

CHRIST! I’m scared—so’s Harry—
Keeps wiping his mouth!

Dread drips, drips, drips on my soul!
Soul?
Don’t think I’ve got one—
Rotten one anyway!
Wonder will I snuff it like a man
Or a dog?
Dog I guess—knees all watery! [page 22]
Ha, ha, got a medal last time—
For bravery!
Ha, ha, Brave—hell!
(One Minute)
God I’m dry—
The Loot’s swanking 
Else what’s his voice for shaking for?
(Thirty Seconds)
God I’m dry!
No drink now dammit!
Luck, Harry boy!
Christ I’m dry!
Where’s that foot-hold?
Where’s that—LOOK OUT?
Where’s that DAMM—Oh, God!—Now! NOW!

2—HOLDING THE NEW GROUND

Cringing, cursing, aching hours;
Waiting, waiting;
Screaming, gasping, hideous hours,
Pound! Pound! Pound!

The mad world shakes and shivers 
Shock on shock!
My left-flank bay’s a gruesome hole,
A tin hat, battered, tumbled back,
Clotted hair clinging!
Harry holds the right alone
Praying, praying! [page 23]

CRUNCH!

—damn silly knees
Won’t stop!
Think, damn you, damn you!
Think, hard, hard!
Hug the wall—
What’s that?
Who’s blubbering? Jim? Big Jim?
Shell-shocked—laughing—crying—

Krunch!  KR-ANG!

Stop him! STOP HIM!
Stop his gibbering!
Get him out! Get him out!

Think, you fool, think!
Think of anything!
Pacifists, that’s it,
Think of pacifists! Ha, ha!
Good thing to think of,
Pacifists!
Won’t fight—wrong—wrong—
Do anything—steal—murder—
Won’t fight! Turn cheeks—
Get slapped, too!
Ha, ha!

KAR-ANG!

Ha, ha!
Where’d these bastards go then?
Silly blithering fools!
Silly knees stopped—mad now! [page 24]
Somebody must fight—way things are—
Stop business—
Stop wars then—mebbe—
Silly fools!

KAR-UMPH! Krang!

Damn silly knees—
Think, think, hard, hard!

Oh, God—how long!
Don’t care!
What’s use caring?

—Down, down into oblivion!
Raving, raving into oblivion!
Roaring, crashing, screaming oblivion!

CHRIST! I’m scared!

KRUNCH! KARANG!

Gibbering all over!
Can’t stop!
Get relieved to-night
Or be in Germany
Or Hell!

KRANG!

LOOK OUT!—it’s in—it’s in!
It’s RIGHT IN!

CHRIST—It’s Harry—
GOD DAMN THEM!—Harry—Harry— [page 25]
Look! His shoe—red, messy stuff—inside—

* * * * *

Chubby little fellow, Harry’s kid—
That day we came away
He said:
“Don’t let them hurt my daddy!”

KAR-UNCH! KAR-ANG!

Ha, ha,—silly damn knees
Won’t stop—

The Carrier Pigeon

STREAKING the red tongued gloaming 
     Dauntless thy beating wings!
Straight for thy haven homing—
Loosed in a roaring chaos!
     Crossing a flame-lanced sky!
(THE FLANK CUT OFF! SURROUNDED!)
      —God guard thee passing by!

Taking the tale of disaster;
      Begging the batteries’spite;
Bringing inferno for answer—
Bitter the roused guns smite!
Leaping into the azure!
     Messenger into the blue!
(WIRES ARE DOWN IN THE ACTION!)
      —God grant thee passage through! [page 26]

“Damn-Damn!” Says the Infantree

WHEN the rations ain’t at the rendezvous
‘Cause the quarter-bloke can’t make it through—
      Damn-damn! Says the Infantree!
When the water-tin’s all kerosene
And there ain’t no rum, tho’ the weather’s mean,
And Leave is stopped by the submarine—
      O! Damn-damn! Says the Infantree!

Chorus:

   And the buck he damns his sergeant
     And the sergeant damns his Loot,
   And the Loot he damns his Colonel
     And his Adjutant to boot!
   Battalion damns the Brigadier,
     Division damns some more,
   Till the whole damn-damning family’s
Damn-damning clean to Corps!

When the eighteen-pounders fire too short
And them batt’ry guys just call it sport—
      Damn-damn! Says the Infantree!
When the right-flank outfit up and runs
And won’t hold on ‘cause they’re lousy sons
And you can’t get through to the damn-damn guns—
      O! Damn-damn!  Says the Infantree!

Chorus:

   And the buck he damns his sergeant
     And the sergeant damns his Loot,
   And the Loot he damns his Colonel
     And his Adjutant to boot! [page 27]
   Battalion damns the Brigadier,
     Division damns some more,
   Till the whole damn-damning family’s
     Damn-damning clean to Corps!

When relief is late and it’s near dawn-black
So they spot you right as you’re hobbling back—
     Damn-damn! Says the Infantree! 
When you dream of flow’rs round your billet door
But the guides get lost and your feet get sore
And it stinks like a damn-damn abattoir—
     O! Damn-damn! Says the infantree!

Chorus:

   And the buck he damns his sergeant
     And the sergeant damns his Loot,
   And the Loot he damns his Colonel
     And his Adjutant to boot!
   Battalion damns the Brigadier,
      Division damns some more,
   Till the whole damn-damning family’s
      Damn-damning clean to Corps!

When orders come that you must shine brass
And square-push round like a draftee class—
     Damn-damn! Says the Infantree!
When rumour says that the Hun’s done brown;
But it’s proven “bull” when the word comes down
That the Virgin’s hanging in Albert Town—
     O! Damn-damn! Says the Infantree! [page 28]

Chorus:

   And the buck he damns his sergeant
     And the sergeant damns his Loot,
   And the Loot he damns his Colonel
     And his Adjutant to boot!
   Battalion damns the Brigadier,
     Division damns some more,
   Till the whole damn-damning family’s
     Damn-damning clean to Corps!

Dream’s End

A SHADOW slunk to a carrion meal—
A sentry jumped to a corpse-rat’s squeal.
The wind was stirring thro’ to the old line’s stench
And a sergeant dreamed of his last-weave wench.

The night fell still where the ogres rose;
A far gun spoke through a sentry’s doze;
A snore came up from the fire-step plank
Where a sergeant dreamed of a crown and rank.

A rifle cracked in the cold dawn dark—
The front was alive on the rocket’s arc—
A sergeant bellowed to his bomb-post crew
And from bay to bay, chilled the cry: “Stand to!” [page 29]

Bomb-Proofers

THE CHAPLAIN’S MAN

A NOTION came to us one day,
‘Twas in a Warloy ‘staminay,
While we two mourned above our beer
For all the mates who’d vanished clear,
(That Somme, it was one blasted part,
It well nigh broke our ruddy heart)
Says Spinks to me: “The bloody lout!
“He’ll soon be snuffin ‘of us out! 
“He’s downed the gutfullest and best—
“Why, even Jim went sudden ‘west’!”
And there we sat for round on round
And thought of him, cold in the ground,
And knew we’d soon feed rats as well—
A comp’ny-buck’s plain S.O.L.
Says I to Spinks: “That’s bloody true,
“There’s only us what’s not napoo!
“This war is growin’ too excitin’,
“It’s jake with me to cut the fightin’;
“Me bloomin’ guts is gone, I tell ye
“These days I’m quakin’ in me belly!”

Says Spinks just then: “Here, half a mo’;
“Your guts was never much, you know.”
Now Spinks, he was a friend of mine
And so I didn’t start no shine;
I only cursed and give a grin
And said I’d bust his dial in.

So to the Ord’ly Room we went
And called on Colonel “Charlie” Bent, [page 30]  
To get ourselves some cushy times
And buckshee francs in peaceful climes.
We thought we’d choose the Salvage Corps 
Or help some “Y-guy” tend a store.
The sergeant said: “Sir, these two guys
“Are windy to the bleeding eyes!”
At that the old man gives a laugh
And then he told us off, not half;
He said we was a damned disgrace
And called us cowards to our face.
But yet he smiled and seemed less stern
And said: “You’ve done a goodly turn.”
As we slunk out to blind him blue,
To grouse about and say “And you!”

O’course it some surprised us twain
When ordered to H.Q. again,
And there a shined-up swanky slob
Said we two blokes had got a job.
Go’-Blimey! But I gives a yell
When told to go to La Boysell
To find a padre, name of Scott—
His other batman, he got shot.
(‘Twas self-inflicted, you surmise,
As batman ain’t where hot lead flies.)

I stopped at Albert on the ways,
I guess I stayed about three days,
At least until a “Sixteenth” friend,
Had blowed what Francs he had to spend—
(To leave that bloke it were a shame,
He run a Crown and Anchor game). [page 31]
I found my padre’s deep dugout
Where old front-lines was all about;
He gave me of his kit to clean
And never asked where I had been, 
But hoped a right good time was had,
To prove he was one pukkha lad.
I felt as striker I’d do fine
But wondered why so near the line?
And likewise, why his trews, all mud,
Had funny spots what looked like blood.
I wasn’t long in finding out.
Next day the guns went on the shout,
And my safe-feelin’ got a crimp
And crumpled like a punctured blimp
When “Hush-hush” blokes, all mystery,
Just stopped to gab and pity me;
They shook their heads and said: “Poor lad,
“You must have wisht to pop off bad.”

And sure enough I’d heard aright,
He said: “Let’s watch the Red Patch fight.”
And off went we; he whistled gay,
As slow we wended Centre Way,
With him in front of me behind
To where Death Valley big stuff whined.
I couldn’t see how he’d save souls
By pokin’ round where battle rolls;
But what I didn’t learn about it
I think as I can do without it
A bandage here, some choc’late there,
A cheery word, a little prayer,
And now and then a tot of rum
To soothe poor blokes to Kingdom Come, [page 32]
And honest tears I almost shed
To see them bless his old gray head.

But I was sick and I was tired,
By night my dogs was fairly mired;
I’d never clumped it half so far
Nor seen such after-mess of war,
Nor ever been in parts more hot
Than at the heels of Canon Scott.

But I’d been watchin’ all the day
And knew whereat my own lot lay;
I said I’d go and say: “Bon jour!”
He never knew what he said: “Sure”,
That I preferred to chance what luck
Might come to just a comp’ny-buck
That was fed-up with being scout
An’ huntin’ lads to help pass-out!

Old Spinks, he almost croaks right off,
Says he, “I thought you was a toff
“What stays ten kilomeets behind
“And keeps yer One Star Wonder shined?”

—Just then he cussed and glared around—
A chorus came from ‘neath the ground:
“Nah, don’t forgit to feed ‘im, love,
“An’ chynge ‘im, too, the ‘ittle dove.”

Away Spinks rushed like on a raid—
Them blighters dubbed him Nursymaid.
And then I saw what caused the rage.
His funk-hole held a homer cage,
And Spinks, he was their Pigeoneer—
‘Twould spoil a blighter’s taste for beer. [page 33]
Ow! He was wild; he damned them squabs
And said: “To hell with bomb-proof jobs!”
And me, I thought of Canon Scott
And of that batman as got shot.
Says I to Spinks: “You’re bloody right,
“Us bleedin’ blokes was meant to fight!”

* * *

We found a werry pleasant way
To join our company to stay—
I spied a certain lance-jack tyke
Whose manner I did much dislike,
And his platoon, they gleeful grinned,
To see me kick him in the wind!

And Spinks, he did some F. P. too—
Them squabs, they made a tasty stew! [page 34]

Star Shells

THE star shells, like the souls of men,
   Are gleaming through the gloom,
A lovely radiance shudd’ring up
   Above a foul, grim tomb,
To hang in brooding brightness till
    The fall brings black of doom.

The Watcher for the Judgment Day
In million drops of white;
A sparkling splendor in the sky,
A brilliant loop of light—
And murder’s in yon rifle spurt
The stabs the aching night!

The slinking shadows stretch and race
A-down the writhing floors,
As up the jet walls of the night
The silver seeker soars,
And hovers, while the far guns roll
Like threat from Heaven’s shores!

The peering sentries strain with eyes
That rim the sandbag tops;
The toiler stays his hand and stills
And quakes and all life stops,
Till back the shadows shrink and merge—
And blacker blackness drops! [page 35]

A Carrying Party

IT’s damn the wet Frog-weather; it’s damn the cold-foot guide;
   It’s damn the “Sub” in charge and damn the war;
It’s stumble, fall, and blunder, and wish you were down under;
   And damn the mate who wonders: “How far more?”

You’d ditch your load and beat it, but don’t know where to go;
   The guide is groping, lost, and wand’ring round;
There’s rebellion in your heart but the “Sub” he knows his part;
    He neither answers back nor hears a sound.

The U Frame cuts your shoulder or the bath-mat breaks your back;
   You whimper out with rage when you go down;
You’re weary past conceiving and tired beyond believing;
   And the holes are almost deep enough to drown.

The battered trench is cluttered; you hear a dead man—sq-ush!
   Your profanity turns near akin to prayer;
But your every muscle aches and control it nearly breaks
   And you’d bless the Fritz that laid you peaceful there!

The mud is to your arm-pits; the slime seeps to your heart;
   You’re sobbing, mumbling out as down you go!
“Go slow ahead, you blighters!”—and they call us Noble Fighters—
   But like a fool you’re up and on you go! [page 36]

The line is disconnected; you curse them when you’re joined;
   The fitful black is loud with crimson spurt;
But at last you dump your load—and all back the homeward road
   Your secret mind is storing one more hurt.

Billets

THE bugle! A rush for the cook-cart for tea;
   And grousers get going anon—
The issue of jam’s Plum an’ Apple again
   And eight-to-a-loaf ain’t no bloody well bon!
     —Eight! Eight! Ain’t bloody-well bon!

There’s “Tiddle-um-buck” in the boozers and huts
   While volunteers watch for M.P.’s;
“Oo says the Spyde?” drones the spieler, and adds:
   “A canteen o’ beer if I turns it up Threes!”
     Beer! Beer! A canteen for Threes! 

A barn has a mouth-organ minstrel at work
     And trilling  “Gray Home in the West”;
And a lad has his brimming eyes hidden alone,
     With tug of heart-strings in his homesick breast.
      —Home! Home! His Home in the West! 

Then “Lights Out” in silver note lingers and hangs
    And quavers and fades in sweet flight;
And laughter and tales leave the braziers now
     For the weary are sleeping in peace for to-night!
     —Sleep! Sleep! And peace for a night! [page 37]

New Year’s Eve

NIGHT, red night, world wide throbbing!
Dark, fear-filled, the batteries lobbing
The chant of the guns for the Old Year sobbing!
     —Red-flecked etchings of Terror and Might
     On ebon canvas down the walls of night.

Shell-pocked road, red tongues flashing!
Roar, deep toned, the monsters thrashing;
The rush and the scream of swift doom crashing!
     The numb and thrill of the danger spell
      In charnel chaos of a Page of Hell!

“In-between”, star shells dipping!
Weird wind’s moan, the horrors dripping;
The gloom, death-laden, and the shadows slipping!
     —Spirits, dread-wrought, that gibber and pass
     Like childhood ogres in the blood-wet grass! 

Shattered walls! Towns down tumbling!
Towers aquake! The dead streets rumbling!
Whisper of ghosts and a troubled mumbling!
     —A stricken city of pity and awe,
      A victim city in War’s glutton maw!

Then valley mists! Gorged guns slowing!
Grim in the shadow! The dim hills showing!
Dawn on the rims like the bright blood flowing!
      —A cleansing sun coming up to scorn
      The tortured beauty of a year’s First Morn! [page 38]

A Letter to a Friend

“Dear Sliver:

“Where shell-hole scum had an evil green,
By grim rib-cages, rat-picked clean;
      Where winds go moaning by;
Where feet stuck out of that parapet, too,
And nudged at you as you stumbled through
     And nobody tarried nigh;

“Well, a Heinie’s hand stuck out a ways
And I shook it, just for ‘lucky days’,
     And lucky thing I did! 
It stiffened like a traffic cop’s 
And so, of course, McDuffy stops
      And sits on his tin lid.

“For long I squatted there below
Whilst waiting for the signal: Go!
     And night and day went slow;
But the devils left for hotter climes
When It rose and fell just thirteen times
      Then jerked its thumb to:  Go!

“Oh, I was weak and I fell and fell—
A back barrage had been raising hell—
     But san-ferry-ann—it’s BLIGHTEE!
And I see signs of a pint o’Bass
And visions of greeting your last-leave lass—
   Compree?
     Toodle-oo!
        McDuffy.” [page 39]

The Immortal Salient

“IN”

STRAIGHT, sentinel trees to guard the path,
Beyond the Gate*  to the rims of wrath;

Shell-pocked cobble to trouble the road
For aching backs hunch-hunching the load;

By the Cloth Hall’s jutting, fanging pile,
By Shrapnel Corner in single file,

A relief Battalion with kilts a-swing
And a “V” of Taubes in the sky a-wing!

Reserves, in the ditches of Vlamertinghe,
In tense, wary waiting, suffer and cringe;

Artillery limbers crowd by on the run—
The rations go through to the half-fed gun!

The hint of gas on the fields low lies,
Menace of night floods the hushed, cast skies;

Aid-post men with their kits unslung
And five damned Boche with their arms upflung!

“NIGHT”

On Zillebeke Ridge, five-nines fall, screaming,
The horizon’s red with the eighteens teeming;

* Menin Gate. [page 40]


From Hooge, on the left, rips rapid fire,
—A red star leaps—and the guns drum ire!

On the right, the St. Eloi mine goes, roaring, 
With a spouting belch and defences soaring;

The pits in support open up, as one—
A smother of bombs and the crater’s won!

Railway-cut rum-jars blob down, crumping;
Café Belge seven-fives come pumping;

The Little Gates road spits spiteful sparks
Where slowing strays find their heedless marks.

On Swan Chateau, the heavies go, cranging;
On Bedford House there is shrapnel twanging;

From Transport Farm teams leave with a jump—
The whizz-bangs break up the ration dump!

“OUT”

The world is aseethe with baleful death,
A life goes out on each bated breath;

The Loop’s aflame with the Evening Hate 
Till Wrath is fed and gorged guns wait.

In cold, scared chill, weaving wearily on,
Go shadowed ghosts in grim race with dawn—

A regiment relieved, for billets bound—
The sun’s on The Hill and the world’s aground!

* Hill Sixty. [page 41]


The “Hopeless” Ward

SIX clean white cots in an even line,
     In Army style arrayed,
Are filled with men from Sector Nine,
     And tenderly they’re laid!
‘Neath the cold gray wall of the farthest hall,
      The dying men now lie,
For they softly bring to this lonesome wing
      The case that is sure to die!

* * *

There’s a youngster there with bright red hair,
     Who once was so blithe and gay,
But he’s now just a tortured, writhing mass
     With his face half shot away;
And next to him, ‘neath that blanket’s rim,
     Is a sergeant of fifty or so;
His arms are horrid and jagged and grim—
     And he’s glad—he’s glad to go!

That bandaged head is “Cognac” Brown—
     He’ll get a V.C. they say;
But his thoughts are far from War’s renown,
      They’re wandring homeward, away;
To a tiny house in a valley green,
     To the faces that smiled “Good-bye”—
He thinks of the father he might have been—
     He’s afraid—afraid to die.

That corporal chap, who saved his men,
      Was ever so reckless-bold,
And the light of sacrifice lights the eyes
     Set in that graying mould! [page 42]
And babbling, shrill, of Leave, of drill,
     Now spinning a brazier yarn,
Is the youthful twin, with a frozen grin,
     Of him who went down on the Marne!

And against yon wall, delirious, blind,
     Lies and Anzac, minus a hand.
List! While he tells that he always knew
     He’d end in some damn-fool land—
“But I’ve seen all the sights worth seeing, yes,
    At every game had a try,
“And now, without legs to go roaming—well,
      What else can I do—but die?”

* * *

Six red-stained cots—grim disarray—
     With Army despatch are changed;
And for the flood from out of the fray
     Are waiting, ready arranged!
‘Neath the cold, gray wall of the farthest hall
     The dying men shall lie,
For they’ll softly bring to this lonesome wing
     The case that is sure to die! [page 43]

The Ration Thief

WE was in supports at Wipers; in Dickybush Huts we lay;
On working parties evening and just loafing in the day;
We was in supports at Wipers and a bloke, he proved his kind—
He’d complained of ache and paining, so him we’d left behind!

   “Toss ‘im hup in ‘is blankit!
      Tyke hit aw’y as ‘e falls!
   “Give ‘im the Harmy thankit—
     The boots as the blighter crawls!
   “Wot did ‘e do?—S’elp me!
     Whilst we was diggin’ abroad,
   “ ‘E pilfered of the rations
     They hishood ‘is own squad!”

We was digging up at St. Eloi, stuffing Belgium into bags,
And the ground was stinking orful and was full of stiffs and snags;
We was digging up at St. Eloi and the night was thick as sin,
And the chances they was proper fine to get ourselves done-in!

   “There’s not ‘is like in the houtfit!
     ‘Ark! ‘Ow the blighter squeals!
   “Pommel the bleedin’ lifter
     An’ see that the bounder feels!
   “Wot did ‘e do?—S’elp me!
     Whilst we dug beneath the moon,
   “ ‘E copped the plum-an’-happle
     An’ bully o’ ‘is platoon!” [page 44]

It was nervous up at St. Eloi and the gun-pits was awake,
And the most of us was windy-like, not knowing what might break;
It was anxious up at St. Eloi—a mine was in dispute
And we was frantic building of some parapets of jute!

   “Give  it ‘im ‘ard an’ ‘eavy!
      Flay ‘im afar an’ near!
   “Hall abaht the paryde grahnd,
     Tent-pegs jabbin’ ‘is rear!
    “Wot did ‘e do?—S’elp me!
      Whilst we was fillin’ of bags,
    “ ‘E sold of our Machonshie
      An’ peddled our extry fags!”

We was in supports at Wipers and we thought he was our mate,
But he stole our blooming du-pan and righteous waxed out hate;
We was in supports at Wipers, coming homeward through the dawn
And our bellies they was holler but our rations they was gone!

    “Join in our little teachin’!
      ‘Ark! ‘Ow the blighter bleets!
    “Is harms too bloody reachin’,
      ‘Is guts contains our heats!
    “Wot did ‘e do?—S’elp me!
      “ ‘E pilfered o’ the rations
    They hishood ‘is own squad! [page 45]

“Missing!”

S-S-SH! S-S-SH! A ghost in the gloom!
     A prowler?—a shadowy motion?
No, it’s as dead as grandfather’s grave—
    Guess it was only a notion.

Ugh! What a spot to die and lie and rot,
    Alone in this horror-lair,
Where gibbering, quivering, clammy things,
     Eerily whisper and stare;
Where carrion rats with grizzly rustle
     Shatter the shivering hush,
And squeal and scurry in gruesome hurry,
     And guilty, scampering rush;
Where machine-guns rattle, offering battle, 
     Seething, strumming along,
And sweep and spatter and stuttering chatter
     Their swift staccating song:
Where star-shells spill in trillion sparkles
    And gleam on the Gutter of War,
On the pitiful, huddling “missing” there,
     Who’ll follow the drums no more!

And here I squat and listen and wait
     In the chill of the baleful dawn—
Ah! What is that dim, skulking pile?
     Is it moving and coming on?

—There’s an SOS where the rockets mount,
     Yellow and green and white—
How swift its soar has the guns a'roar
     And screaming into the night; [page 46]
In the livid sky is a pulsing glare,
     A billow of trembling light—
The lads are getting it stiff near Hooge—
     But, oh, what a wondrous sight!
Shrill, fusillading forward lines
     Leap frantically more and more;
Panic floods wide in a frenzy-tide
      Till dawn is red furour!
Near rifles come in and the trench-lights leap;
      The roused line bickers away;
The front’s a-jump in the flickering dark
     And will only be soothed by day!

Hark! Something wriggles and wiggles there!
     Is it spirit or is it man?
There’s something tinkles and slithers there!
     Only a rat in refuse can?
No! It’s looming large—a gray coat! 
     There in the shadows dim!
Tensed, I belly closer, and tighter
     I press to my crater rim.
A blacker blot, elusive, grim,
     A blob in the greasy grass;
Wish he’d hurry—lost my nerve—
     I’ll funk it, and let him pass!
WHAT! He knows this hide? Ho! Ho!
     The Hun I chased last trip!
So, as it’s you I’ll bide right here—
     We’ll fight on the crater lip!
Bah! A star-shell fizzles—blast
     That blighter’s nerves in the trench! 
Come on! Come on! Why it’s nearly dawn;
     There’s morning’s wind-borne stench! [page 47]

Not even a glance and he’s set to spring?
    The careless, the thoughtless fool!
I’ll use my hands; it’s the safest thing;
     A sure and a noiseless tool!
JUMP! FOOL! Ah—I’ve got you snared
     Down deep in my shell-hole lair;
I have you downed without a sound
     And guzzled and captured fair!
I throttle you tight and stop your wheeze 
     And the slap of your threshing feet;
And deep in your belly I press my knees—
     I’ve trussed my square-head neat!

So with his struggles and heaves all done
     I get his knuckle-duster;
I tie his hands and I crack him one—
    He’s off his outfit’s muster!
Quiet! Quiet! That Lewis gun’s
     Exploring this No Man’s Hole;
‘Spose we made some hullaballoo—
     To hell with this lone patrol!
I’ll leave him here and I’ll rush it in;
      I’ll get him to-morrow night;
—MY GOD!—Too late!—The sandbag rims—
     I’m caught like a rat! It’s light!

Caught in-between with Old Sol up—
     I’m glad that crump dug deep;
Why this is Sniper’s Paradise,
     A louse couldn’t do a creep.
I suppose the gang will think I’m done
     And’ll call my fags their own;
Get over and give me my room, old son,
    It’s us for the Neutral Zone! [page 48]

* * *

Hello! The sun’s behind yon boyou!
    Still there old Weinerwurst?
You’re scowling so I hardly know you—
    Where does it hurt the worst?
The twilight’s peaceful; flies a-buzzing
     Are like the bombers droning home;
A “coal-box” overhead’s a-rumbling,
     Thudding far, on too-high dome!
No sound, now, waiting quiet’s breaking,
     It’s like twilight on the farm—
(How still they’ll sit while son is speaking
     Of nights of stealth and daring charm.)
Ah! The first star-shell goes a-soaring,
     Spits and fades and all is gray;
On the left the nightly Hate’s beginning,
    The brawling batteries blaze away;
When yonder stump’s no longer looming
     My Fritz and I will crawl,
I’ll be the rover homeward coming
     With proof for stories tall.
I’m glad, somehow, I’ve done no killing,
     This Hun’s a fighting sport,
He’s game, this lad, and quite unwilling
     To be the Kamerady sort.

Still, you! I’ll rub those ankles—the night
    Has blotted yonder stump!
Steady!—I s’pose you think we kill you?
     Well, look before you jump!

—CHRIST!  LET GO!—he’s loose—he’s stalling—
    —At my throat with hands of steel!
God! He’s strong!—the world is falling—
    The sky—the stars—they slip—a wheel! [page 49]

WAIT!  There’s our Lewis stabbing over—
     UP!  Get up you!  TAKE IT THEN!—
(How still they’ll listen to their rover)
   —Add TWO to the Missing Men!

Behind the Hindering Wire

ALL down the hind’ring, fierce-meshed wire
     Pass tales by signaller’s key;
“What’s doing in ‘Beer’ Comp’ny’s Sector?”
   —“He’s throwing a lot of H.E.”

The rockets loop, like a shrine-light
     They gleam on the welter of blood;
And eyes watch the lane that’s forbidden
     Where slinking things rise from the mud;

Till the dawn comes shuddering over
     And shadows their startled take fright,
The sentries are shivering, sodden,
     And numb from the vigil of night!

“Stand To!” while sights are still useless 
     ‘Long rims of the crazy piled bags;
Where martyrs set softly to stamping
    And stretching and cursing wet fags;

At last!—down the trench comes the chatter
     That paces the rum, bay to bay,
And it’s soothing the bitter heart-cockles,
     And warming and cheering—‘tis Day! [page 50]

Feud of the Blue!

SPIN her, lads, till she sings her croon!
Roll her out in the dawn-blurred moon!
Tune her, lads, for we hop off soon!
Tune her! Tune her! Tune her!

Jealous, the sky-moored stars shall scowl
As space we hurtle with a warning growl
To riddle yon red-bellied foeman-cowl!
Tune her! Tune her! Tune her! 

Thin wraith miles shall her motors scold
As the flimsy floors of the void unfold
To our rendezvous in the stabbing cold!
Tune her! Tune her! Tune her!

Roaring, the cloud-wisp tops our run;
We wing straight East for the rising sun.
Till steel death streams from our stuttering gun!
Tune her! Tune her! Tune her!

Shriek shall the wind in whinnying wires
Till he flops to death, as the “Feet” admires
—Yon black-crossed Knight of the gray-piled spires!
Tune her! Tune her! Tune her!

Out of the blue we’ll ‘dromeward drone
When chattering death cuts our monotone
And he split-air screams in his flaming throne!
Tune her! Tune her! Tune her!

Contact! Now! Stand clear of her bow!
We take the roof at twenty-one thou’
To dive on his tail—‘tis our sky-man vow!
CHOCKS OUT!
   CONTACT!
      NOW! [page 51]

The Singers

   ….. I think I hear them singing,
   Singing altogether,
     A song on every breath!
   ‘Tis the spring-time, the gay time—
     On! Can’t you see them swinging?
   Swinging on to Glory?
     Swinging up to Death?

* * *

Oh! Hark to the brave old echoes that thrill when the dawn is still,
And a phantom, ghostly company comes singing over the hill;
‘Tis the sloggers out with the morning, a-swing on the roads again;
They’re singing along the cobbles and cheering the plains of pain!

Oh! Hark to the drums a-throbbing, afar on the whimp’ring wind,
As a muddy, weary column comes roaring along behind;
‘Tis the sloggers out with the morning, when the graves are wet with dew,
Like tears of the fighters thrilling as The Regiment goes through!

Oh! Hark to the careless chorus that forever shall lilt and run
Down a laughing, chaffing column, unawed by the blooded gun;
For comrades shall come with the morning, and the old, old songs they’ll sing
Till the gaunt, lost legions rally the cross-lined roads shall ring! [page 52]

Wounded!

THERE’S a lad in the Gutter of Battle;
   Spot of cold dread in his heart;
It’s spreading like ice as he crouches,
   Waiting the night-raiders’ start,

Th sh-ush of a rocket goes streaking;
   Silence is dripping, chill, taut;
The spurt of a “typewriter” chatters—
   Stillness that waits—are we caught?

He clutches a knife and shillaly;
   Slime’s up his sleeve; on his face;
He shivers, and fear that he’ll flunk it
   Numbs the dread-grip on his mace.

—A dug out is blood-splotched and moaning;
    Death’s hovers, there, by the rack;
A sob’s in the throat of the bearers;
   Dripping, the stretchers go back!

The M.O. toils on ‘neath the candles;
   “Gee!” pants a boy’s crumpled chest: 
“We copped two of them funny Boche buggers—
   “Doc?—say Doc?—is it West?” [page 53]

The Flying Column
When trouble was frequent and men were few, a number of battalions were shuffled back and forth to the point where the trouble broke or threatened, and were known as the Flying Column.

IT’S on the move again, my lads,
   For so the orders read;
It’s on the move again, my lads,
   For orders we must heed;
There’s the rattle and the bustle,
   The Battalion’s moving out!
There’s the clatter and the hustle
   And a “non-com’s” bellowing shout!
Oh! Hit the hard old cobble, lads,
   For we’re the Flying Column!
And fall-in on the double, lads,
   The Colonel’s looking solemn!

   It’s fall-in, fall-in, fall-in, lads,
     And leave your sick behind;
   It’s fall-in, fall-in, fall-in, lads,
     There’s trouble on the wind!
   It’s fall-in on the double, lads,
     There’s trouble in Sector AAC!
   With a cheery ring in the song we sing
     We’ll swing on the trouble track!

It’s on the move again, my lads,
   All night beneath the moon;
It’s on the move again, my lads,
   Swing in to the stirring tune!
The action roll roars nearer;
   Horizons shuddering dance! [page 54]
The drums of war well clearer,
   Hearts leap in the resonance!
Oh! Up the line again, my lads,
   For we are the Brass Hats’ pawn!

   It’s fall-in, fall-in, fall-in, lads,
     And leave your sick behind;
   It’s fall-in, fall-in, fall-in, lads,
     There’s trouble on the wind!
   It’s fall-in on the double, lads,
     There’s trouble in Sector PIP,
   With a breezy song on the road along
     We’ll swing on the trouble trip!

It’s on the move again, my lads,
   My section musters—one!
It’s on the move again, my lads,
   The fight is won and done!
There’s the murmur and the shuffle—
   The Battalion billets here!
There’s the stirring and the scuffle—
   When the rum brings in good cheer!
Oh! Bivouac again, my lads,
   One hundred Huns we seized!
And back for rest again, my lads,
   The Colonel’s looking pleased! 

   Till—fall-in, fall-in, fall-in, lads,
     And leave your sick behind!
   Till fall-in, fall-in, fall-in,…. [page 55]

After Vimy

IN flashes melt my dull-day comforts;
   I drift a-dream down flaming ways;
I see the loom of nature’s ramparts
    In Vimy’s red-embroidered haze! 
At Neuville Ste. Vaaste (reliefs there mustered)
   Are files of men, dim, weaving by
The grim cross-road, where shrapnel flustered,
   In spiteful gusts from a snarling sky!
Where the Nine Elms once defied the ages,
   But to crash and die in war-alarms,
There, the thunders drum as combat rages
   And I glory in a Might of Arms!

I cringe in rush of salvo passings—
    Rumbled threat to grim enterprise;
I pause till distant, rolling crashings,
    Leap and throb and the echo dies.
From Arras reverberates a thresher,
     Horizons foaming, oranging red;
The winds of dawn are blowing fresher,
    As Woods of Farbus loom ahead;
There, blotted Thelus smokes, an ember
   In the swathe of ruin wars enjoy;
And bursts afar the baleful temper
   Of a losing stand before Fresnoy!

The night’s pent strain is loosed below me,
   The black is streaked with livid stain,
The stand-to panic floods wide slowly
   As hints of sun cross Douai plain. 
From lofty rim are mists swift bolting,
   The Ridge of Vimy falls off, sheer; [page 57]
Shadows surprise with strange, new cloaking,
   And a valley spire is glinting near.
A last rocket wavers, wan and hollow,
   As, lost above, comes a swelling drone—
The impotent “Archie’s” white puffs follow
   A belated bomber, homing lone!

The scorning sun with clean rays beating,
   Fills fields forlorn with augury,
And with staunch hearts, in foe’s defeating,
   Can see, at last, last victory!
Then from the rear drifts driver bawling—
   A battery labours, changing ground!
In frantic haste a plank road’s crawling;
   With toiling men the slopes abound.
A prying plane arcs, and zooms down, scouting,
   And turns to flee like a startled fawn!
Malevolent jaws, once more, are shouting;
   Exultantly the assault goes on! [page 57]

They Will Shout Defiance Down the Years

WHAT soul but stirred and leapt when gallant story
   Was added to the lore of mighty deeds?
What lad but dreamed of days of storm and glory?
   What youthful blood but sang to dauntless deeds? 

What lad but thrilled to death and danger leering
   On lonely isles, in mystic, hidden lands?
What boy but saw a rover homeward steering
   With purple parrots from his far-flung strands?

What lad but heard his own blithe, careless laughter,
   When sabres clanked and swaggered down his street?
What heart but throbbed and echoed, long, long after,
   The tune had timed the cadent tramp of feet?

What lad could dream he heard the troopers beating,
   But joined the tide of battle in full blood?
What lad cheered on shock of squadrons meeting
   And laughed aloud though crimson fled his blood?

* * *

Then do not grieve for these who are not grieving,
   For years that failed by far allotted span:
They know a deep content that’s past conceiving—
   They passed, yet gaily clung to boyhood’s plan!

They’re gone, while we yet wait yon brave dream’s dawning;
   Our town-shrunk souls all manacled with fears;
We stay, and life’s pale wane shall find us fawning—
   While they still shout defiance down the years! [page 58]

The Cock-Crow

A WATCH face gleams on the Captain’s wrist; 
   Seconds go slow 
     Ere the cock-crow.
The knuckles are white on the Subaltern’s fist 
As they belts come tight with pull and a twist
   Ere the cock-crow,
     Near the cock-crow.

A youth prays straight to his fighting sire;
A fag, a fag, for nerves all afire—
They’ll soothe in the black-barbed, mangled wire
   On the cock-crow.

The Sergeant laughs through his years run out:
“Ten in the chamber, one up the spout;
“Don’t bunch, boys, when you hear me shout,
   At the cock-crow!”

The orders run with a whisper—hark!
   ‘Tis the cock-crow!
     Oh, the cock-crow!
A hand, a grin, for life’s been a lark
That ends in the thund’ring, raving dark—
   On the cock-crow!
     Oh, the cock-crow! [page 59]

Slink, the Rat

A Nursery Rhyme for War Babies

THIS is the tale of a carrion rat,
     A gruesome, grizzly, slithering ghoul;
Who lived between, where Lone Death sat,
     And died, prematurely, on the prowl!

* * *

Snug in his sock-lined dead-man’s hat,
On the rims of war lived Slink, the Rat;
Curious, cunning, evil and wise,
Knowledge grim in his baleful eyes.

Slink knew all the holes where rats could hide;
He knew all the parts where rats had died;
He shunned those parts which a wise rat shuns,
Where men went ratting with black, squat guns.

He’d made men jump and backward roll,
For he’d startled them on their lone patrol;
Slink knew they feared, as an old rat knows—
Huge did he loom going past their nose.

But he had one friend, had Slink, abroad, 
Sergeant “Doc” of the Scouting Squad;
He had winked at Slink with friendly eye
While prone as a rocket held the sky.

Slink welcomed “Doc” with a scuttling rush 
That froze his blood in the clammy hush;
He’d scurry and dash, quick flick “Doc’s” heels,
And squeal with glee, as a pleased rat squeals. [page 60]

There came a night when schemers planned
The doom of men in that doom-rife land;
On a night so till life seemed to wait
While far, grim guns dim-chanted hate;

When sentry nerves saw gliding ghosts
Prowling the front with the “missing” hosts,
The wily Hun ‘neath an outpost digged
And a minor mine had quickly rigged;

Under the lip of Line Redoubt 
From where friend “Doc” came bellying out,
One ran a wire that front along
And Slink’s curiosity waxed strong.

Puzzled he what that wire might mean
Through No Man’s Land so snaky and lean;
Pondered he what it might contain,
He examined, he sniffed and sniffed again.

Slink started to gnaw and gnaw and chew,
He, ratlike, sought to chew it through;
Hard did he gnaw, as a rodent gnaws,
And never knew that he won applause

From Sergeant “Doc”, watching these deeds,
Hunkered down the rank, dank weeds;
Staunch “Doc”, whose heart as a rule held scorn,
Was cold with dread, for he could not warn

His pals, the bombers, who soon were due
To use that Post—‘twas the rendezvous
For the raid, with “zero” set at dawn
And so “Doc” troubled and troubled on. [page 61]

And on worked the Hun in frenzied haste;
And on gnawed Slink, for he liked the taste;
—Then a cut-short squeak told “Doc” who’d lose
And a bright red spark fled up that fuse!

—Woke the quiet with shuddering roar,
To Kingdom Come did the Teutons soar!
White glared the night in a belching flame!
Loud throbbed the front, and louder came

As guns pumped in with resentful crash
To scream and whip with futile lash;
To slow and to burst and to search anew,
Bewildered ranging, where Slink’s mine blew!

Then “Doc” laughed long and thought it sport
That Slink, the Rat, should die a “short”;
But, wishing to honour a good friend’s name,
To pay him homage, admitting his fame,

He chose a strand of barbed-wire near
As a fitting No Man’s Land rat-bier;
And there Slink swings by his tail tied tight
When the moaning winds croon weird at night. [page 62]

The Last Great Roll Call

STRAIGHT men they’ll be, war-old and wise,
   Who answer the last great “shun!”
And broken men shall straightway rise
   And swing as the movements run,
To look their Marshal in the eyes
   And hearken to His: “Well done!”

And the gallant shall with the dauntless greet
   When the warriors meet again,
And comrade’s hand shall with comrade’s meet
   In the Fellowship men ken
Who proved their worth in the steeling heat,
   Where men were made plain to men.

And there shall be tales of their epic fights
   Till the blooded guns shall speak,
And sagas be sung of the red-ringed nights
   Till the weltered welkins shriek,
Of the deeds of men ‘neath the white-arced lights
   When the strong-man boast was meek.

Of billet and peace when they stood to drink
  To The King, whose men they are;
When the mugs, fraternally, did clink
   In a brave, bold day afar,
When these knew Death and the bonds that link
   To the end of the world and war! [page 63]

“Mac” Macklem o’ the Guns
The Making of a trench proverb in the early days

NOW a Regiment relieved us in the line ‘long by Messines,
It was in the winter season and they should have been Marines,
But they were only Cavalree what slogged it on their feet—
A horse is only baggage when there’s no one on retreat!

This regiment was swanky but was new to holding lines;
Their brasses had a glitter—but that didn’t read the signs;
And they wouldn’t heed advices so they into trouble runs;
That’s how we got acquainted with “Mac” Macklem o’ the Guns.

We had left them cooking bacon in the black of early dawn;
And we told them front-line custom but they listened with a yawn;
Then in the place of mounting sentries they were grousing at their beds
And they called us bloody croakers as they covered up their heads.

That week we slept in Court de Pip where oft we slept afore;
That week we heard a lullaby of guns upon the roar; [page 64]
Afar we heard them muttering and wondered what was up—
But guessed our friends the Cavalree had met with Mister Krupp.

But nothing travels faster than a leave or billet-rest,
So soon ‘twas up a-singing for our morale was the best;
We hoped the reckless Cavalree had kept their trappings clean,
Had buttressed up the breeches and patrolled the “in-between”.

The “Piggeries” at midnight, where we stop to ease our packs;
Then Plugstreet Wood by sections where you guesses where you tracks;
‘Twas double down yon cobbled road what crosses to Messines
And then we’re with the Cavalree—with mud upon their jeens!

Yes, the Cavalree was muddy and their eyes was sleepless sore;
Oh, the cockiness was missing—as their rolls missed sixty-four!
We saw that they were jumpy and we asked if it was ghosts
And we jeered at tarnished brasses as we crowded to our posts.

Farewell we gave them, “sojer-style”, we wisht ‘em our respects,
For half our blooming parapets was down about our necks; [page 65]
They never cracked on haughty but just bustled glumlike out
And we never knew till morning what the glumness was about. 

But in blur of frosty dawning flicking wings began to hiss,
By the angle he was sniping we knew something was amiss;
And then we spied a redoubt looming huge between the lines
And how we cussed them Horsemen for allowing his designs!

He drilled at every movement and at every chance we took;
He could dekkho in our dugouts; he enf’laded all about
He could dekko in our dugouts; he enf’laded all about
And the Colonel he was swearing: “Boys, we’ll bomb the buggers out!”

But he diddled us and riddled us all thro’ the stinking grass,
Like a paper bag he crumpled us and gave us coup-de-grace!
Our batteries opened on him but were shy of shells a bit,
And tossed their daily ration long afore they made a hit.

Yet we had to smash it somehow and to smash it toot-sweet quick,
And the outfit started thinking and the outfit all got sick; [page 66]
Then up spoke this “Mac” Macklem, battery observation bloke:
“I’ll steal an eighteen-pounder and we’ll spike his little joke.

“I’ll snipe with proper pellets and he won’t know where he go’ed;
“The Brass Hats, they won’t like it, but all Brass Hats can be blowed!”
So back went this “Mac” Macklem and what guys would volunteer—
As our Colonel was a Colonel who was wise and wouldn’t hear!

So he stole an eighteen-pounder and some mokes to drag her by,
Who much disliked their riders, with their kilts a-riding high.
But artillery limbers rattle and that strong-point heard his noise;
They shot his poor mokes’ legs away; they killed his driver boys!

We had to haul her, pully-haul, till she jammed our parados
And “Mac” yelled: “It’s court-material but that barricade’s a loss!”
Point black he sets his fuses as he doomed those walls o’jute
And his one-gun front-line batt’ry spewed a joyous, red salute! [page 67]

She jumped her plank emplacement and he saw a year of clink;
The recoil jarred her deeper but he shouted: “Let her sink!”
He stood on top and worked her with the strafe a-ripping thro’
And levelled low that redoubt without orders so to do!

We got her on the cobbles thro’ some Engineers and Luck,
Who helped us hook the drag ropes so she came out with a suck;
The front line roared him greeting as he hopped it with the dawn
And heard his mighty bellow coming back the way he’d gone!

Oh, that blighter went back singing and our rum had disappeared,
Yes, that blighter went back singing and this is what he jeered:
“Oh! The infantry are boasters and the engineers are wise
“And the cavalree have swagger—but the guns can steal your eyes!” [page 68]

“Runners!—on-the-Double!”

THE Lines of communication,
   When wires were out in the fight;
The heart of attack operation
   When storm was stern on the night;
Headquarters’ last reliance
   When the order-change went through;
The hope for a last defiance—
   “Meet reserves at the rendezvous!”

“Runners!—On-the-double!”
   And the whole line watch them go—
They’re down—still—in the stubble!
   Two more, two more must go!
The barrage forbids the staunchest
   And it’s looking black and bad—
“You think one only’s wisest?
   “Righto, God keep you, lad.”

So through to stay catastrophe,
   On, through the spouting hell,
With youth and war-philosophy
   And luck to live to tell.
So through with thrill for the trying—
   “Go through, go through, there’s trouble!”
And through when the call came, crying:
   “Ho! Runners!—On-the-double!” [page 69]

The Miracle
Little road-side shrines would appear with startling frequency standing unscathed in the very heart of utter desolation and ruin.

THE roaring rascals, loud with wine,
And gay, released from up the line,
Go reeling home to “Adeline!”
But what subdues them coming nigh?
Why does their song fall low, and die?

   They near a jutting, blackened wall,
   That stubborn stands and will not fall;
   And from those teetered, towered bricks,
   There looms a gaunt, gray crucifix!

The limping limbers roll back, slow;
The shaking horses toss and blow
With sleeping drivers slouching low.
Why does that lead-lad sit so straight?
Why do those calks click fresher gait?

   There bleakly rears, aloof and high,
   A drooping Christ, against night’s sky,
   That gazes from Its shambled hill
   In mute, calm pleading: “Peace! Be still”.

At cross-roads blotted out in strife,
Where all else fell when lust was rife,
Yet stood the Closing of Christ’s Life.
And did God seek,  in Man’s own hell,
To comfort him, with: “All’s yet well”? [page 70]

Evening Hate

HERR Hauptmann beyond yonder sky-line
   Decides to get on with the Row,
As a ‘staminay clock sets to chiming
   Six heures—bon business starts now!

But clouds of black fog shroud the village;
   Brick dust shoots funneling high;
A steeple snaps off and flings upward
   Towers of flame to the sky!

The red roofs are lost in the strafe-pall;
   Hurtlings of doom split o’erhead;
The crashing thuds echo, resounding, 
   Shudder and shatter and spread;

The flumes float afar down the valley;
   Hate of the twilight is on;
The jaws of the black-lines are waking—
   Death, double-shift, till the dawn! [page 71]

The Crimson Tide
A Fable

CURSED he the puny tides that flow,
Neptune, King of the Depths below,
For never were seas as dull as these,
Never did waft such a lazy breeze.

And seaman shades from the Roaring Years,
From Viking down through the Buccaneers,
Could find small sport in the idle main,
And time went long and they waxed profane.

Then boomed Paul Jones, of High Sea fame:
“Scuttle me, lads, but ‘twere a shame,
“To see true breed of seaman die—
“The breed we knew when the masts stood high!
“These steaming craft are captained, manned,
“By scuts who had better stay on land,
“For their craven anchor drop o’er soon
“And a simple squall is a mad typhoon!”

Said the Shade of Drake in swanky tones:
“There’s naught afloat can shame our bones,
“No skipper steers ‘tween Pole and Line
“That struts a deck more brave and mine!”
But the Flying Dutchman’s skipper spake:
“Now few of you but have seen my wake
“As I drove by on a ghostly gale
“Though I answered not your quaking hail! 
“And the words I speak are straight and true—
“There’s salt in blood of a steamer’s crew
“As well as crusts on the bones of you!” [page 72]
As foc’sle quarrels on a listless sea,
The debate grew hot and the oaths flew free,
Till Davy Jones (who viced the King 
When he was off a-baptizing)
Stilled the clamour with trumpet blare,
And clawed seaweed from his clotted hair:
“Stow your cackle! We’ll settle this thing;
“We’ll deputize the Locker King!”

King Neptune thus was deputized;
And it pleased him rare to be advised
To whistle up a thick monsoon
And test this steaming buccaroon;
To try his worth on a crashing main
As wild winds roar down the traffic lane!

So Neptune’s daughter fled afar
To where the lairs of the Four Winds are;
And the heart of each howled forth in glee
To know at last they were loosed and free!
(But an impudent rogue of a wench was she
For the Sea King said but to loosen—THREE!)

So she fled away to the uttermost rim
And chuckled and laughed at her mischief grim,
As the North Wind reeled from his frozen floe,
And the West wind with smothering prank did blow;
And the South rolled up from his balmy ease
To join the East—and they whelmed the seas!

And the muttering rumbled far below,
Where the seaman shades watched, row on row;
They asked: “Does the Locker ready lie?”
And Davy grinned as he bellowed “Aye!” [page 73]
—And even steel-sheathed bows will slack,
The rivets ease and the bulwarks crack,
When Four Winds roar two-hundred knot
And suns go out in the swirling blot!

“It is not storm, but the crimson tide!”
The Flying Dutchman’s skipper cried.
And far and far drummed a deeper roar 
Than breaker boom on a reef-pocked shore;
And shades, who in life, had been e’er bold,
Felt fingers tremble and spines turn cold;
And the locker stilled and the Sea King swore
For the Voice of the Deep said: “MAN makes war!”

And they crossed themselves in a mute dismay
For the fearful turn to their dolt-head play
And felt the flesh on their dead bones creep
As scared whales dived for a sea, mile deep,
And the congeree went writhing by
In gruesome flood unto where men die!

And the shades saw deeds ere a knell was rung
As brave as any since seas were young,
And heard men’s mirth flare down the breeze
To dare the foe and the racing seas!
They saw craft lift where mines were spread,
Where all afloat went aquake with dread,
Saw a skipper wait, with even blood,
The slinking fin, the swirl of scud,
That walked well-laid torpedo’s path
And skied his decks in a spouting wrath!

And the mariner shades, of the long ago,
Stretched hearty hands as they settled low,
When doom leapt in and the boilers threw
To the grim, grim sea, the toll of Blue! [page 74]
And the tides were red till the Pirates quailed,
And Morgan e’en to the Sea King wailed;
And Kidd and Blood beseeched: “Enough!”
“These lads are of as stern a stuff,
“As the ‘saints’ that shipped with Flint or us
“When we hied on voyages villainous!”

And Neptune would that the storm should lull
Ere the savage guns pierced another hull,
For the shades knew well hearts still beat high
On the Ships at Sea when the war flags fly!
And sought he then for his daughter, far,
By furrowed lane and by coral bar,
By lonely isle and by lost lagoon,
Wherever the runes of the rollers croon!
—But well knew she that he had small ruth,
And well recked she of the Deep Sea truth;
When wild winds roar in the Might of Four
Then Mankind joins and the Nations war!

He found her, a cringing, shivering wretch,
On the last lone strand where the salt sprays stretch,
And she scudded away on the roared command,
In a fright of the wrath of the Royal Hand,
To soothe the Winds and to stem the Seas
That pounded free through her trickeries!

The thunders slowed and the echoes died
On the paths of doom down the Crimson Tide!
And dim to the world come came a ghostly hail:
“Good luck to the Steam from the Shades of Sail!”
As the Old and the New tumbled aft for grog
And to add bold tales to the Ocean’s log! [page 75]

The Raiders

COLD in the snarling wire
   The bated raiders merge—
‘Ware, ‘ware yon sentry’s fire
   And still that coward-urge!

Black as the quaking night
   The charcoal’d prowlers line—
Wait, wait one moment’s flight
   And plunge on leader’s sign!

Huge in a fearful row
   The “nigger” ghosts arise—
Jump, jump in the startled foe
   And kill in swift surprise!

Red stains the dagger’s steel
   And breaks the Death-embrace!
Cut-short’s the terror-squeal
   On crunch of cog-wheel mace! 

Screams greet the Stokes’ dread roll
   That plops down dugout gloom;
Wails fill that bedlamed hole—
   But silence on the boom!

Kicks speed a quaking batch
   As recall klaxons sound;
Friends snipe that scuttling catch
   Across the flare-lit ground.

Roaring, the strafe forbids—
   They’re tumbling back with jeers;
Gleeful, larking, careless kids
   That once played Buccaneers! [page 76]

Wild, wild, the waked guns pound
   To shake their rascal-hold;
Deep in the trembling ground
   With jest the tale’s retold.

Eyes gleam from muddy mask
   Around the cold clay walls;
Safe from the daring task
   Until new daring calls!

Shapes one a rough, wee cross,
   To mark a matey’s sleep;
Harsh tongue but tells of loss—
   He’ll dare to plant it deep!

Belts off—equipment slips—
   They’ll sleep till dawn is gray!
Hands wipe the rum-wet lips
   As if strife’s wiped away! [page 77]

Torpedoed

HOME from Gallipoli, footing in prettily,
   With a cargo of suffering flesh;
A hold full of cheer and a bow lifting sheer
   As the fields of Old England blew fresh;
Rolling and cresting, the white comber breasting,
   With song from below of men’s scorn,
And a breeze with a croon to swell the brave tune,
   For ‘twas Dover and Home in the morn.

By true-neutral trust, she clove and she thrust,
   And laughed with the spume in high glee;
On-coursing for home, where the black-bellies roam,
   In faith that her passage lay free!
Her lights glowed, then shone, as twilight wore on,
   One undowsed craft on the sea
And whispers of war blew dim from offshore
   In the roll of guns on her lee.

Secure that her mark in the dark stood stark,
   And certain no seaman was blind—
On she slipped, homing, her wake hissing, foaming,
   With nary a worry in mind!
White lights on her larboard and bright on her starboard;
   Emblazoned Red Cross amidship.
Below decks, man’s joy! Home waters—ahoy!
   A homeward bound Hospital Ship!

But beyond her light-arc, in the fog-heavy dark,
   Steals the suck of a rising “U”;
Slinking and slim and shadowed and dim,
   And threat in the throb of his screw! [page 78]
But no need to ponder, the furtive foe yonder,
   Knows Code of the Sea she drives through!
So on she goes lunging and Doverwards plunging—
   By her markings no blow being due!

But Fate and Grim Luck spewed up the black muck
   And the spawn of an Honourless Port;
Black seamen were they, at their black-hearted play,
   And declaring her scuttling a sport!
For with murder intent his foretube was bent,
   The word to the torp-hole was: “Low!”
And his soul’s in hell and his ship’s as well,
   For he damned himself with his blow!

What the Hell’s it Matter?

“BLAST the bloody war,” then cursed a sullen lad,
    Too sensitive, and how he hated war:
“You rush for ‘em at dawning, you’re stark and raving mad,
   And yet you don’t know what you bash ‘em for!
“It’s—Heave up! Over! Christ! The wire and mud!
   Got it in the guts! Bombers to the flanks!
“It’s—There goes a matey with his face all blood! 
   Get the damned objective! Lose half the “ranks”!
“It’s—Heave up! Over! All that’s left to run!
   What’s the sergeant jabbing? What’s he screaming for?
“Oh what the hell’s it mean, when it’s all said and done?
   What the hell’s it matter?  BLAST THE WAR! [page 79]

Cold-Steel and Fate

AN estaminet swanker, a swaggering tanker,
   Was “Navy Deserter” Magee;
A love of gore, he came seeking for glory,
   At least this is what he told me.
“In a terrible fight,” he recalled with delight,
   “Alone in a far foreign port,
“I killed me a sailor, a cook and a tailor;
   Throat-cutting’s my favourite sport!”
And we’d squat in a row in the brazier’s glow
   While he’d tell us the bloodiest tales,
Of the manner men died, and tempo they cried
   With a fine imitation of wails;
Till one nervous night we discovered that fright
   Was causing each wild anecdote,
And saw that cold-steel made him squirm like an eel
   When he visioned a thrust to the throat! 
He tried drowning the fear in vin-rouges and beer
   And so did fatigue round the huts,
And no bloke in that Army was ever so barmy
   At thought o’ cold steel in the guts!
He even admitted he wouldn’t be spitted
   For all the V.C.’s in the forces,
That he cared not a hang for explosion and bang
   Was the theme of his twilight discourses;
Machine-guns and gasses might issue us passes
   To Permanent Furlough Below,
Or bits they could save fill a parapet grave
   When a “Minnie” came whuffling and slow;
He laughed at a spewing or spouting napooing
   (Though mines he admitted were weird)
But ‘twas fact scientific, correct and terrific—
   The steel was a death to be feared!

* * *
[page 80]

Now a man in the Service in useless if nervous—
   We planned that we’d give him the cure;
Which was letting him fight in a corner some night
   With nothing in sight but his skewer;
And along came a scrap, and somehow, by mishap,
   He was cornered by crop-headed foes—
There was nothing to do but run them all through
   With a series of desperate blows!

So well did he work with his dread-driven dirk
   That the plot was a squealing success;
But the tales that he told! Why, the thunder fair rolled
   And the casualties none could suppress!
He swore that his blade polished off a brigade
   Every time that he went on the bust,
But we knew that his dread in the scuffle had fled
   Of a foot o’ cold steel on the thrust!
He’d “In-Out” with a pard as the whole Prussian Guard,
   Prince Willy and Hindy included,
And warned all the Huns to keep steel on their guns—
   Oh!  He craved to fix bayonets as few did!

Now you’d think all this talk should have stopped at Maroc
   Where the complex was safely defeated,
But despite all this gab he “went west” by a jab
   For Old Fate is a thing never cheated! 

One night we were digging and cursing and rigging
   Some sandbags to build a redoubt,
When pip-squeaks came yapping and bouncing and slapping
   And searching that part therabout. [page 81]
So we left with great speed, with Magee in the lead,
   With a panicky, gallopy stride.
Ten jumps Magee took, then with never a look,
   He dove for a trench—and he died!
There a rifle, new cleaned, very harmlessly leaned
   With the steel pointing straight to the sky;
And there Fate, with a jeer, killed Magee by his fear,
   In a sort of a hari-kar-i!

* * *

Now all fighting men know that this moral is so,
   That a fear will serenity rend,
Lest you hobble along with a laugh and a song
   —And to hell with the Forewritten End! [page 82]

The Law o’ the Feet!

OH!  Nobody wonders or cares a damn
   Who’ll get the bloody V.C.’s—
We stumble back to the empty huts
   An’ flop an’ fall to our knees;
An’a bloke can’t sleep so he tosses round
‘Cause most o’ his maties are underground
An’ nobody sings an’ there isn’t a sound
   But the jeer o’ guns on the breeze!
Oh! Nobody cheers for the extry fags
   Or rum for just forty-four;
For there’s khaki ghosts in the bleeding hut
   With five that kip on the floor!
It’s dawn—but none of ‘em straggles out!
It’s dawn an’ there isn’t a sergeant’s shout
Nor a matie t’wallop yer feet a clout 
   Nor curses to even the score!
Oh! Nobody cheers as the mail come up
   Though rations can stay in Stores,
For parcels from home are the empty hut’s—
   ‘Tis rule o’ the Infantry Corps! 
So a bloke strolls round with a hopeless gait
An’ a lonesome eye, so he can’t look straight,
An’ nobody shines or rows with his mate
   Nor boasts o’ his deeds an’ wars! 
No! Nobody speaks as the roll call runs
   And tells who lies in the wheat,
The Captain’s dead an’ the Company’s broke
   That would not break and retreat!
—But new Draftees will be sent up soon;
We’ll weld them into each old platoon
That took no quarter and asked no boon
   For that’s the way o’ the “Feet”! [page 83]

Invincible

OH, never I’ll go strolling
Down the honeysuckle lane,
And my cot’s a seering canker
   And my bandage-gear’s a chain;
But I make a dreamland park
Of the snoring, still ward’s dark
And I’m happy as Sir Lark
   In his bondless blue domain.
I’m no scrap of life discarded,
   Flung broken from the fray,
I’m a swinging, singing player
   In a flaming, ringing play;
For the epic scenes come teeming
Thro’ my memory, swiftly streaming,
And through gallant days I’m seeming
And I’m hieing far away;
There’s the crash of sudden action
   Blazing yonder on the hill;
There’s the flash of pretty star-shells
   In their white, revealing spill;
And the flood of battle’s welling
And the bitter guns are shelling
And of Death they’re coldly telling
   And again my ward is still! 
So I lie here, tense and spellbound,
   While the night is swift transformed,
To a throbbing, fitful red-land
   Where the Men of War once swarmed—
There’s front-line trouble starting
Where yon rifle spurts are darting
And defenders are departing
   As a strong-point’s grimly stormed! [page 84]
The vivid scenes come trooping
   In parade across my bed,
By a gutted, ghostly city,
   In a silhouette, they’re led;
And I hear a bugle flaring
And a sergeant’s strident blaring
And a hungry grouser swearing 
   At his divvy of the bread;
There are stories and there’s joking
   Where the merry comrades laugh;
There’s a brazier, rosy gleaming,
   Where they parody the staff;
And there’s pride of victory ringing
In their throaty voices singing
Their song, with challenge flinging,
   Midst the careless billet chaff!
The roads we tramped so cheery
   Go a-winding, twisting by
The quaking, eery château
  With its turrets all awry,
By the trenches there, that barred,
By the blotted woods, black charred,
Where the grim old elm, war scarred,
   Looms stark against the sky.
There’s maties by the wayside
  With their weary, weary feet;
Dead-sleeping where they halted
  Down a crimson-guttered street;
They’ve been risking, they’ve been daring,
And to war they’ve come far-faring,
And they’re tired beyond all caring
  That history marks the feat.
There is battle in reflection
   Lancing up the walls of night; [page 85]
There’s the thunder of the batt’ries’
   Raucous roaring of their might;
There’s a scream, a sudden shrieking,
Of a phantom monster streaking
On a road that’s red, red reeking
   From the chaos of the fight!
There’s the night all wet and blowsy
   When the steel in tell-tale shone;
When the luckless sandbag fillers
   Tersely named the war “No Bon”!
And the snarls of barb-wire glisten
Where the dripping out-posts listen,
Watching apparitions hasten
   Through the evil, slinking dawn!
Then the chill of early morning
   Brings a cheery, tinted sky,
And the rumble of far cobbles
   Where the limbers homeward fly;
In my window sunlight’s flinging,
As a fairy thing goes winging,
With around it white-puffs springing
   That grow and, thwarted, die!
Then hands about me putter
   Changing fancy into fact;
And I’m asked how goes the battle,
   If there’s anything I’ve lacked;
I don’t tell them I’m a Viking,
With a dream-land unit hiking,
Or of righteous blows I’m striking
   Or of villages I’ve sacked.
For that’s how I keep happy
   All the heavy, hanging day;
I’m waiting for the sun to set
   To dream slow years away; [page 86]
For at night the guns start barking
And the rockets dipping, arcing,
And I’m like a kid skylarking,
   In dreams so gallant-gay!
May it be in shadowed twilight
   With my dream-land shells azoom,
That the poignant “Last Post’s” wailing
   As the volleys o’er me boom;
While my column’s song is ringing
Down the long, long road they’re swinging,
For my soul shall join them, singing,
   Till “Reville” wakes all doom!

In the Last Days

OH, leaping wind, fly eastward,
   Gaspé to Cambrai Road,
And with thy tang of salt-brine
   Take him our comfort code—

The song of pines, snow-laden,
   The laughter of the loon,
The scent of prairies golden,
   The whistles at high noon.

We would not have him lonely,
   So whisper in his ear,
And tell him when the maples
   Are turning with the year.

Oh, leaping wind, fly eastward,
   Tell him we sheathed the sword,
Who fought and won together
   From Arras to the Nord. [page 87]

The Reunion

THEY meet again! The mufti strangely lacking
   And looking somehow wrong on Khaki’s Best!
The talk is strained, but soon the tongues are clacking
   As canteen clamour ran in billet rest.
From tale of trench and hut-line ghosts are rising
   To fill the gaps with memory and pain,
To bring back scenes of gay, grim enterprising,
   To sit awhile about the board again.

Now gallant days are running through the toasting
   And Unit-pride is running through the talk;
Of Neuve- Chapelle Old Soldiers there, are boasting,
   And here a toc toc rattles through Maroc.
They see once more an arc of silver streaking
   In bitter starkness down the brooding sky,
They feel the front, at night, astir and reeking,
   That in one day lies silent, coward and sly.

And now they’re swinging, singing, in fine fettle,
   And now from Hooge they straggle back to Pop!
They raid the Bluffs, and watch a dugout settle
   As down the steps a Stokes-shell goes a-plop!
Remember how?—again an Archie’s pumping
   And yapping futile puff-balls to the blue!
Remember when?—the Loos sky-line is jumping
   And dawn’s berserker strafe is raving through!

Then back they weave to meet the limbers waiting
    On quaking wheels that hustle home in fright;
They pack a blasted U frame, grim berating,
   The silly ass who lost them in the night! [page 88]
It’s dusk!—they loaf by St. Eloy’s tall tower
   To watch the Vimy guns play down the rise;
It’s dawn!—in roaring Moquet they’re a-cower
   With fortitude and faith and sacrifice!

They’re breaking up!—yet linger and seem sorry
   To turn to petty things from epic days,
From sad days, mad days, of grieving and of glory,
   From storm and stress and triumph and high praise!
The pride of proven men within them’s burning;
   They scatter now and leave these high-played parts,
And to a bairn-bright billet they’re returning
   With straighter backs and old songs in their hearts! [page 89]

The Vision

A SACRED, sudden silence drops
   On this November noon;
On hundred streets, on thousand shops,
   In a million hearts attune;
A City, in remembrance, stops;
   The rigid hosts commune.

Now as they bless the sacrifice,
   A vision swift unfolds
Before stern men’s unseeing eyes
   While yet the silence holds.
Vivid the Past, the Present dies;
   Gone comrades each beholds.

None else may see yon column dawn
   From womb of cloven sky,
Heads high, come pressing on and on,
   As silent seconds fly;
Heads high, come pressing on and on,
   The Empire Dead draw nigh;

Now far, now near, a vision fleet,
   The men of Empire-boast;
From out the distance-narrowed street,
   And least is as the most,
Yet, as of old, with cadent beat,
   With each to his old post.

The silence breaks! And Life’s ado
   For minutes two doth strive;
The World knows not the Dead went thro’
   To rouse and to revive
And steel the steel-stern bond anew
   With them that did survive.

All’s Well

THE thunder and the chaos seemed to cease;
   With blessed stillness crept reprieve;
The madness of my fevered brain found peace;
   With healing magic came the eve;
—A soothing Saint’s hand—cool release!
   I marvelled—why, She seemed to grieve!

* * *

Ah, do not grieve! I do not even rue
   My absence from the haunts of men;
I’ll meet you where the Future’s surges beat,
   And greet you, hand to hand, again.

All’s well with me! The Great Hearts are my friends
   Who spoke not when the roll call ran;
I know that those who answered missed my voice
   And told you that I’d died—a man!

I am serene! I sipped the martyr’s cup
   Of anguish, but I found no gall;
I knew you must have martyrs do you thrive
   And living, could I give you all?

All’s well with me! And only this I ask:
   Remember that I went your bond;
My life is pledged to Honour of my Race
   For now, forever, and beyond! [page 91]

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