‘Hello, Soldier!’


Edward Dyson

AS BULLETS come to us they’re thin,
    They’re angular, or smooth and fat,
Some spiral are, and gimlet in,
    And some are sharp, and others flat.
The slim one pink you clean and neat,
    The flat ones bat a solid blow
Much as a camel throws his feet,
And leave you beastly incomplete.
    If lucky you don’t know it though.

The flitting bullets flow and flock;
    They twitter as they pass;
They’re picking at the solid rock,
    They’re rooting in the grass.
A tiny ballet swiftly throws
    Its gossamer of rust,
Brown fairies on their little toes
    A-dancing in the dust.

You cower down when first they come
    With snaky whispers at your ear;
And when like swarming bees they hum
    You know the tinkling chill of fear.
A whining thing will pluck your heel,
    A whirring insect sting your shin;
You shrink to half your size, and feel
The ripples o’er your body seal—
    ’Tis terror walking in your skin!

The bullets pelt like winter hail,
    The whistle and they sigh,
They shrill like cordage in a gale,
    Like mewing kittens cry;
They hiss and spit, they purring come;
    Or, silent all a span,
They rap, as on a slackened drum,
    The dab that kills a man.

Rage takes you next. All hot your face
    The bitter void, and curses leap
From pincered teeth. The wide, still space
    Whence all these leaden devil’s sweep
Is Tophet. Fiends by day and night
    Are groping for your heart to sate
In blood their diabolic spite.
You shoot in idiot delight,
    Each winging slug a hymn of hate.

The futile bullets scratch and go,
    They chortle and the coo.
I laugh my scorn, for now I know
    The thing they cannot do.
They flit like midges in the sun,
    But howso thick they be
What matter, since there is not one
    That God has marked for me!

An Eastern old philosophy
    Come home at length and passion stills—
The thing will be that is to be,
    And all must come as Heaven wills.
Where in the swelter and the flame
    The new, hot, shining bullets drip;
One in the many has an aim,
Inwove a visage and a name—
    No man may give his fate the slip!

The bullets thrill along the breeze,
    They drum upon the bags,
They tweak your ear, your hair they tease,
    And peck your sleeve to rags.
Their voices may no more annoy—
    I chortle at the call:
The bullet that is mine, my boy,
    I shall not hear at all!

The war’s a flutter very like
    The tickets that we took from Tatt.
Quite possibly I’ll make a strike;
    The odds are all opposed to that.
Behind the dawn the Furies sway
    The mighty globe from which to get
Those bullets which throughout the day
Will winners be to break or slay.
    I have not struck a starter yet

The busy bullets rise and flock;
    They whistle as they pass;
They’re chipping at the solid rock,
    They’re skipping in the grass.
Out there the tiny dancers throw
    Their sober skirts of rust,
Brown flitting figures tipping toe
    Along the golden dust.

‘Hello, Soldier!’ - Contents

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