Thursday, August 17, 2006

Field Manoeuvres

The long autumn grass under my body
Soaks my clothes with its dew;
Where my knees press into the ground
I can feel the damp earth.

In my nostrils is the smell of crushed grass,
Wet pine-cones and bark.

Through the great bronze pine trunks
Glitters a silver segment of road.
Interminable squadrons of silver and blue horses
Pace in long ranks the blank fields of heaven.

There is no sound;
The wind hisss gently through the pine needles;

The flutter of a finch's wings about my head
Is like distant thunder,
And the shrill cry of a mosquito
Sounds loud and close.

I am 'to fire at the enemy column
After it has passed'-
But my obsolete rifle, loaded with 'blank',
Lies untouched before me,
My spirit follows after the gliding clouds,
And my lips murmur of the mother beauty
Standing breast-high, in golden broom
Among the blue-pine-woods.

Published in 1917, Form the 'Poetry of the first World War'

Richard Aldington (1892 - 1962): Educated at Dover college and London university. He volunteered in 1914, but was rejected on medical grounds. He was able to enlist in 1916, joining the Royal Sussex Regiment as a private. In 1918 he was invalidated out ( as a lieutenant) suffering from shell shock and the effects of gas. After the war he wrote Death of a Hero and several biographies.

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