More songs by the fighting men. Soldiers poets: second series/Clifford J. Druce
CLIFFORD J. DRUCE
2nd Lieut., Gloucester Regiment
IF I should chance to fall, and find
A last couch on this soil of France,
Do not seek out with yearning mind
The place, nor give my grave one glance.
The cross would mark a cenotaph;
And careless of the flesh thus laid
In unfamiliar earth, I'd laugh
To know how quickly it decayed.
My spirit, freed, impatient still
At the irrelevant, blind stroke
That stole the servant of its will
With all half-done, with thews unbroke,
Would swiftly reach the land which knew
The love that time had not yet staled,
And haunt the country whence it drew
The life that has not sped nor failed.
Perhaps beside some lonely copse
A brook would flow with less of ease,
The brooding wind that sways the tops
Murmur more plaintive in the trees.
And should you, lingering there alone,
Feel on your face, some evening
Its touch, that stranger, rarer grown,
Clothes some sweet, straining, half-spoke thing;
Know that the fate self-fixed must yet
Endure, whether I die or live;
And I still strive to ease the debt
Of kisses I was born to give.
France, May, 1917.
To a Grave of the Glosters
A WOODEN cross above your head,
You lie, your course already sped;
And in this alien plain must rest
The bones and body Cotswold bred.
Not long since, insolent with life
You made the beech-topped barrow rife
With your tumultuous vivid youth,
With other lads, in sport and strife.
And though you shook the earth o'er those
Old warriors, close couched there in rows,
Your careless clamour had no power
To trouble their sublime repose:
Who, if they felt at all the tread
Of such as you pass overhead,
Wise with the wisdom of long years
Were patient, knowing that their bed
Was spacious, patient too, withal;
That centuries after you were thrall
To undistinguished dust, they still
Would hold their place, each in his stall.
But now, ere many months are told
Over your head, encased in mould,
Children may play, with little care
Of one beneath them, silent, cold.
Take my salute: ere twenty years
You knew, you reckon as your peers
The men of axe and spear of stone,
As far removed as they from fears
And doubts that vex men such as me.
From all demands from henceforth free
On weary limbs and spirit tired,
You hold eternity in fee.
Spring in Picardy
WHEN earth was bare, and sky a murky pall,
And snow and sleet filled all the miles and days
That held us two asunder, all my gaze
Was bounded by an impenetrable wall
Of chill, numbed, burdened hours, that rose so tall
I only dimly knew that your fair ways
Lay far beyond it, where desire could raise
To bring you nearer, no sufficient call.
Ah God! that blank was better borne than this
Flushed wantonness of May, these maiden leaves
That bare themselves to bathe in the ardent moon.
There is a false note in the wood-dove's croon;
And all is meaningless, show that deceives,
Hollow, lacking its core and clue—your kiss.