‘Hello, Soldier!’

Battle Passes

Edward Dyson

A QUAINT old gabled cottage sleeps between the raving hills.
To right and left are livid strife, but on the deep, wide sills
The purple pot-flowers swell and glow, and o’er the walls and eaves
Prinked creeper steals caressing hands, the poplar drips its leaves.
            Within the garden hot and sweet
            Fair form and woven color meet,
While down the clear, cool stones, ’tween banks with branch and blossom gay,
A little, bridged, blind rivulet goes touching out its way.

Peace lingers hidden from the knife, the tearing blinding shell,
Where falls the spattered sunlight on a lichen-covered well.
No voice is here, no fall of feet, no smoke lifts cool and grey,
But on the granite stoop a cat blinks vaguely at the day.
            From hill to hill across the vale
            Storms man’s terrific iron gale;
The cot roof on a brooding dove recks not the distant gun.
A brown hen scolds her chickens chasing midges in the sun.

Now down the eastward slope they come.
No call of life, no beat of drum,
But stealthily, and in the green,
Low hid, with rifle and machine,
Spit hate and death; and red blood flows
To shame the whiteness of the rose.

Crack followes crash; the bestial roar
Of gastly and insensate war
Breaks on the cot. A rending stoke,
The red roof springs, and in the smoke
And spume of shells the riven walls
Pile where the splintered elm-tree spawls.

From westward, streaming down hill,
Shot-ravaged, thinned, but urgent still,
The brown, fierce, blooded Anzacs sweep,
And Hell leaps a up. The lilies weep
Strange crimson tears. Tight-lipped and mute,
The grim, gaunt soldiers stab and shoot.

It passes. Frantic, fleeing death,
Wild-eyed, foam-flecked and every breath
A labored agony, like deer
That feel the hounds’ keen teeth, appear
The Prussian men, and, wild to slay
The hunters press upon their prey.

Cries fade and fitful shots die down. The Tumbled ruin now
Smoke faintly in the summer light, and lifts the trodden bough.
A sigh stirs in the trampled green, and held and tainted red
The rill creeps o’er a dead man’s face and steals along its bed.
            One deep among the lilacs thrown
            Shock all the stillness with a moan.
Peace like the snowflake lights again where utter silence lies,
And softly with white finger-tips she seals a soldier eyes.

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