Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rose Macaulay, Picnic: July 1917

Rose Macaulay


July 1917

We lay and ate sweet hurt-berries
In the bracken of Hurt Wood.
Like a quire of singers singing low
The dark pines stood.

Behind us climbed the Surrey hills,
Wild, wild in greenery;
At our feet the downs of Sussex broke
To an unseen sea.

And life was bound in a still ring,
Drowsy, and quiet, and sweet . . .
When heavily up the south-east wind
The great guns beat.

We did not wince, we did not weep,
We did not curse or pray;
We drowsily heard, and someone said,
'They sound clear today'.

We did not shake with pity and pain,
Or sicken and blanch white.
We said, 'If the wind's from over there
There'll be rain tonight'.


Once pity we knew, and rage we knew,
And pain we knew, too well,
As we stared and peered dizzily
Through the gates of hell.

But now hell's gates are an old tale
Remote the anguish seems;
The guns are muffled and far away,
Dreams within dreams.

And far and far are Flanders mud,
And the pain of Picardy;
And the blood that runs there runs beyond
The wide waste sea.

We are shut about by guarding walls:
(We have built them lest we run
Mad from dreaming of naked fear
And of the black things done.)

We are ringed all round by guarding walls:
So high, they shut the view.
Not all the guns that shatter the world
Can quite break through.


Oh, guns of France, oh, guns of France,
Be still, you crash in vain . . .
Heavily up the south wind throb
Dull dreams of pain, . . .

Be still, be still, south wind, lest your
Blowing should bring the rain . . .
We'll lie very quiet on Hurt Hill,
And sleep once again.

Oh, we'll lie quite still, nor listen nor look ,
While the earth's bounds reel and shake,
Lest, battered too long, our walls and we
Should break . . . should break . . .

No comments: