Siegfried Sassoon: 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.             

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