Its third stanza has become part of my mental life.


1. Prelude: The Troops

Dim, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloom
Shudders to drizzling daybreak that reveals
Disconsolate men who stamp their sodden boots
And turn dulled, sunken faces to the sky
Haggard and hopeless. They, who have beaten down
The stale despair of night, must now renew
Their desolation in the truce of dawn,
Murdering the livid hours that grope for peace.

Yet these, who cling to life with stubborn hands,
Can grin through storms of death and find a gap
In the clawed, cruel tangles of his defence.
They march from safety, and the bird-sung joy
Of grass-green thickets, to the land where all
Is ruin, and nothing blossoms but the sky
That hastens over them where they endure
Sad, smoking, flat horizons, reeking woods,
And foundered trench-lines volleying doom for doom.

O my brave brown companions, when your souls
Flock silently away, and the eyeless dead
Shame the wild beast of battle on the ridge,
Death will stand grieving in that field of war
Since your unvanquished hardihood is spent.
And through some mooned Valhalla there will pass
Battalions and battalions, scarred from hell;
The unreturning army that was youth;
The legions who have suffered and are dust.

— Siegfried Sassoon

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4 Responses to “For UD, this has always been THE great WWI poem.”

  1. john Says:

  2. dmf Says:
    The decades since independence in 1918 have seen extraordinary twists in the tale. Composer Roxanna Panufnik combines Polish poetry with a Catholic mass in her new oratorio Faithful Journey – Mass for Poland. This huge work for choir and orchestra covers the bloodshed of two world wars, the relative prosperity and optimism of the 1930s, the censorship of communist rule and a new hope for the coming years.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    dmf: When he was a little boy in Warsaw, Mr UD lived next door to the Panufnik family. Jerzy Soltan was a good friend of Roxana’s father, Andrzej Panufnik – himself a major Polish composer.

  4. dmf Says:

    cool, the cosmopolitan world is a small one and getting smaller every day i fear

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