Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE HERO OF VIMY; AN INCIDENT OF THE GREAT WAR, by BRENT DOW ALLINSON



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THE HERO OF VIMY; AN INCIDENT OF THE GREAT WAR, by            
First Line: We charged at vimy, -- zero was at four
Last Line: I cried to heaven,—and wondered if god laughed!
Subject(s): Heroism; World War I; Heroes; Heroines; First World War


We charged at Vimy,—zero was at four;
Sore-eyed we rose and cursed the bleeding war,
And sick at heart, half paralyzed with fear,
Waited in mud and mist—it seemed a year—
Talking in whispers while we gulped the gin;
And John, our sergeant, looked scared-white and thin,
(This was his first trip over) as he said:
"I wish we'd go; one might as well be dead
As in this slaughter-pen. What fools we are!
What poor, damned fools!" ...
A murmur from afar
Like wind through winter branches rose and fell
Along the line,—and up we went pell-mell,
Kicking the ladders backward in the mud,—
Crazy as loons, thirsting for German blood!

Then broke the storm like thunder on the plain!
The heavens roared—the shrapnel fell like rain;
Through the dun mist of dawn we groped and ran
In a long wave up that infernal hill,

Dodging black stumps and blacker pits until
I tripped on what had onetime been a man
And fell headlong with a torn and bleeding thigh—
Angry and helpless while the storm drove by;
Thinking of John and the children there I lay
And watched the sullen sky grow ashen gray ...

They found him hanging dead upon the wire,—
Caught like a fly in a huge spider-net ...
In a few days the Colonel came to inquire
If I were well, and how my leg was set:
"You should have seen the troops! God! They were splendid!"
"Was the wire cut?" I asked.
His laughter ended.
"By some mischance our barrage fell too high;
The boys got badly mangled as they came,"
He answered. "But our staff was not to blame."
"A pity that so many had to die
Through negligence!" I said, and turned my face.

"I shall report the matter to the base,"—
His quick retort. "It was a bloody shame;
But then, we'd men to spare and there's no blame
So far as we're concerned ... Lord! how they died!"

He smiled and went. And as I saw him ride
Down that charred slope—his orderly abaft—
I cried to Heaven,—and wondered if God laughed!





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