War and Love/A Village

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A VILLAGE

I

Now if you saw my village
You'd not think it beautiful,
But flat and commonplace—
As I'd have called it half a year ago …

II

But when you've pondered
Hour upon chilly hour in those damned trenches
You get at the significance of things,
Get to know, clearer than before,
What a tree means, what a pool,
Or a black, wet field in sunlight.

One gets to know,
In that shell-pierced silence
Under the unmoved, ironic stars,
How good love of the earth is.

So I go strolling,
Hands deep in pockets, head aslant,
And eyes screwed up against the light,
Just loving things
Like any other lunatic or lover.

III

For there's so much to love,
So much to see and understand,
So much naïveté, whimsicality,
Even in a dull village like this.

Pigeons and fowls about a pointed haystack;
The red-tiled barns we sleep in;
The profile of the distant town
Misty against the leaden-silver sky;
Two ragged willows and a fallen elm
With an end of broken wall
Glimmering through evening mist—
All worthy Rembrandt's hand,
Rembrandt who loved homely things …

Then there's the rain pool where we wash,
Skimming the film-ice with our tingling hands;
The elm-fringed dykes and solemn placid fields
Flat as a slate and blacker.
There's the church—
The poorest ever built I think—
With all its painted plaster saints
Straight from the rue St. Sulpice,
Its dreadful painted windows,
And Renaissance "St. Jacques le Majeur"
Over the porch …

IV

To-day the larks are up,
The willow boughs are red with sap,
The last ice melting on the dykes;
One side there stands a row of poplars,
Slender amazons, martial and tall,
And on the other
The sunlight makes the red-tiled roofs deep orange …