Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE AVENUE, by EDMUND CHARLES BLUNDEN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE AVENUE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Up the long colonnade I press, and strive
Last Line: To seek and serve the beauty that must die.
Alternate Author Name(s): Blunden, Edmund
Subject(s): World War I; First World War

UP the long colonnade I press, and strive
By love to thank God that I go alive:
And the night dark as palls of cloud can prove
Bids me seek beauty, while wetshod I move,
In the scarce-glimmering boles and flying boughs
That run up black and naked to Heaven's brows
And are as still as life could ever be.
Thus think I trudging on to know each tree,
This leaning out of line; that with great rings,
Ay, ruffs of gnarled grain, whence the forked top springs;
That with its crow's nest; one whose boughs stoop down
Like roots into the sward below; one's crown
Struck by the lightning, whence it stands alone
Stark staring mad but dead, its own tombstone.

And still trees, trees; long lies the journey through,
Till the thought runs like rebel dogs askew,
And soon one tree is like the rest a tree:
If stunt or sturdy, all are one to me.
While men ahead, behind and left and right,
Tramp over the greasy cobbles through midnight,
Between great monolith trees, and often throw
Their strapped packs up to ease them, as they go
Half in a sleep, brain-cramped, dead though they live;
And those who speak find but few words to give.

Drenchingly dripped the trees, the blown sleet came,
These trees were jagged with worse than lightning's flame,
These fields were gouged with worse than ploughs, a moan
Worse than the wind's with every wind went on.
The rattling limbers hurrying past would jar
The jangled nerves, and candles' chancing gleam
From sweating cellars looked sweet peace as far
As any star and wilder than a dream
To him who soon would be beyond the wire
Listening his wits to ague in the mire,
And waiting till the drumfire hours began,
In the fool's triumph of the soul of man:
Beneath those lights whose fountain-play would shine
On quiet hamlets miles behind the line,
That in our respite we had watched ascend,
And poise their drooped heads scouring end to end
The grey front lines; and plucking at death's sleeve
They showed him in the nick new skulls to cleave,
Yet never once lit up our destiny,
But moped and mowed in dizzy secrecy.
Now on the sky I see the dull lights burn
Of that small village whither I return.

The trees hide backward in the mists, the men
Are lying in their thankless graves agen,
And I a stranger in my home pass by
To seek and serve the beauty that must die.

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