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Dead Man's Dump

Isaac Rosenberg
Language: English



The plunging limbers over the shattered track
Racketed with their rusty freight,‎
Stuck out like many crowns of thorns,‎
And the rusty stakes like scepters old
To stay the flood of brutish men
Upon our brothers dear.‎

The wheels lurched over sprawled dead
But pained them not, though their bones crunched,‎
Their shut mouths made no moan.‎
They lie there huddled, friend and foeman,‎
Man born of man, and born of woman,‎
And shells go crying over them
From night till night and now.‎

Earth has waited for them,‎
All the time of their growth
Fretting for their decay:‎
Now she has them at last!‎
In the strength of their strength
Suspended - stopped and held.‎

What fierce imaginings their dark souls lit?‎
Earth! have they gone into you!‎
Somewhere they must have gone,‎
And flung on your hard back
Is their soul's sack
Emptied of God-ancestralled essences.‎
Who hurled them out? Who hurled?‎

None saw their spirits' shadow shake the grass,‎
Or stood aside for the half used life to pass
Out of those doomed nostrils and the doomed mouth,‎
When the swift iron burning bee
Drained the wild honey of their youth.‎

What of us who, flung on the shrieking pyre,‎
Walk, our usual thoughts untouched,‎
Our lucky limbs as on ichor fed,‎
Immortal seeming ever?‎
Perhaps when the flames beat loud on us,‎
A fear may choke in our veins
And the startled blood may stop.‎

The air is loud with death,‎
The dark air spurts with fire,‎
The explosions ceaseless are.‎
Timelessly now, some minutes pass,‎
These dead strode time with vigorous life,‎
Till the shrapnel called 'An end!'‎
But not all. In bleeding pangs
Some borne on stretchers dreamed of home,‎
Dear things, war-blotted from their hearts.‎

Maniac Earth! howling and flying, your bowel
Seared by the jagged fire, the iron love,‎
The impetuous storm of savage love.‎
Dark Earth! dark Heavens! Swinging in chemic smoke,‎
What dead are born when you kiss each soundless soul
With lightning and thunder from your minded heart,‎
Which man's self dug, and his blind fingers loosed?‎

A man's brains splattered on
A stretcher-bearer's face;‎
His shook shoulders slipped their load,‎
But when they bent to look again
The drowning soul was sunk too deep
For human tenderness.‎

They left this dead with the other dead,‎
Stretched at the cross roads.‎
Burnt black by strange decay
Their sinister faces lie,‎
The lid over each eye,‎
The grass and coloured clay
More motion have than they,‎
Joined to the great sunk silence.‎

Here is one not long dead;‎
His dark hearing caught our far wheels,‎
And the choked soul stretched weak hands
To reach the living world the far wheels said,‎
The blood-dazed intelligence beating for light,‎
Crying through the suspense of the far torturing wheels
Swift for the end to break
Or the wheels to break,‎
Cried as the tide of the world broke over his sight.‎

Will they come? Will they ever come?‎
Even as the mixed hoofs of the mules,‎
The quivering-bellied mules,‎
And the rushing wheels all mixed
With his tortured upturned sight.‎
So we crashed round the bend,‎
We heard his weak scream,‎
We heard his very last sound,‎
And our wheels grazed his dead face.‎


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