Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Two Early War Poems from Robert Graves

Graves's Regiment, the Royal Welch Fusiliers at Mobilization


(Heard in the Ranks)

Scratches in the dirt?

No, that sounds much too nice.

Oh, far too nice.

Seams, rather, of a Greyback Shirt,

And we're the little lice

Wriggling about in them a week or two,

Till one day, suddenly, from the blue

Something bloody and big will come

Like—watch this fingernail and thumb!—

Squash! and he needs no twice.


To you who’d read my songs of War

 And only hear of blood and fame,

I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before)

“War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same,

To-day I found in Mametz Wood

A certain cure for lust of blood:

Where, propped against a shattered trunk,

 In a great mess of things unclean,

Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk

With clothes and face a sodden green,

Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired,

Dribbling black blood from nose and beard.

13 July 1915

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