And now for fourteen days and nights, at
He hadn't had his clothes off, and had
In muddy trenches, napping like a beast
With one eye open, under sun and rain
And that unceasing hell-fire . . .
How things turned out -- the changes!
You'd just got
To take your luck in life, you couln't
And so here he was lying
Who just six months ago had thought to
His days behind a counter. Still, perhaps
. . .
And now, God only knew how he would
He'd like to know haw many of the
Had won back to the trench alive, when
Had fallen wounded and been left for
If any! . . .
This was different, certainly,
From selling knots of tape and reels of
And knots of tape and reels of thread
Of tape and reels of thread and knots of
Day in, day out, and answering "Have
you got" 's
And "Do you keep" 's till there seemed
From everlasting serving in a shop,
Inquiring what each customer required,
Politely talking weather, fit to drop,
With swollen ankles, tired . . .
Now. Every bone was aching, and had
For fourteen days and nights in that wet
Just duller when he slept than when he
Crouching for shelter from the steady
Of shell and shrapnel . . .
trench, it seemed
Almost like home to him. He'd slept and
And sung and smoked in it, while
Harmless, at least, as far as he . . .
Dick hadn't found them harmless
At breakfast, when he'd said he couldn't
Eating dry bread, and crawled out the
And brought them butter in a lordly dish
Butter enough for all, and held it high,
Yellow and fresh and clean as you would
When plump upon the plate from out the
A shell fell bursting . . . Where the butter
God only knew! . . .
And Dick . . . He
dared not think
Of what had come to Dick . . . or what it
The shrieking and the whistling and the
He'd lived in fourteen days and nights.
That he still lived . .. And queer how little
He seemed to care that Dick . . .
perhaps 'twas pluck
That hardened him -- a man among the
Perhaps . . . Yet, only think things out a
And he was rabbit-livered, blue with
And he'd liked Dick . . . and yet when
Dick was hit,
He hadn't turned a hair. The meanest
He should have thought would feel it
when his mate
Was blown to smithereens -- Dick,
proud as punch,
Grinning like sin, and holding up the plate
But he had gone on munching his dry
Unwinking, will he swallowed the last
Perhaps 'twas just because he dared not
His mind run upon Dick, who'd been his
He dared not now, though he could not
Dick took his luck. And, life or death,
From first to last; and you'd just got to
Your luck and grin. It wasn't so much
As knowing that you'd got to, when
And better to die grinning . . .
Had fallen on the night. On either hand
The guns were quiet. Cool upon his
The quiet darkness brooded, as he
The starry sky. He'd never seen before
So many stars. Although, of course, he'd
That there were stars, somehow before
He'd never realised them -- so
Millions and millions. Serving in the shop,
Stars didn't count for much; and then at
Strolling the pavements, dull and fit to
You didn't see much but the city lights.
He'd never in his life seen so much sky
As he'd seen this last fortnight. It was
The things war taught you. He'd a mind
To count the stars -- they shone so bright
One, two, three, four . . . Ah, God, but
he was tired . . .
Five, six, seven, eight . . .
was number eight.
And what was the next thing that she
(Too bad of customers to come so late,
At closing time!) Again within the shop
He handled knots of tape and reels of
Politely talking weather, fit to drop . . .
When once again the whole sky
Flared blind with searchlights, and the
shriek of shell
And scream of shrapnel roused him.
He stared about him, wondering. Then
Into deep dreamless slumber.
. . . . . . . . . .
Two dark eyes peeping at him, ere he
He was awake, and it again was day --
An August morning, burning to clear
The frightened rabbit scuttled . . .
A sound of firing . . . Up there, in the sky
Big dragon-flies hung hovering . . .
About them . . . Flies and snowballs.
With a cry
He crouched to watch the airmen pass --
That he'd seen under fire. Lord, that was
Shells bursting all about them -- and
They took their chance, and trusted to
At such a dizzy height to dip and swerve,
Dodging the shell-fire . . .
one was hit,
And tumbling like a pigeon, plump . . .
It righted, and then turned; and after it
The whole flock followed safe -- four,
five, six, seven,
Yes, they were all there safely. They
Even if they were Germans . . . 'Twas no
To wish them luck. Think how that
Just in the nick of time!
To win back to the lines, though, likely as
He'd take the wrong turn: but he couldn't
Forever in that hungry hole and rot,
He'd got to take his luck, to take his
Of being sniped by foes or friends. He'd
With any luck in Germany or France
Or Kingdom-come, next morning . . .
The blazing day burnt over him, shot and
Whistling and whining ceaselessly. But
Faded at last, and as the darkness fell
He rose, and crawled away into the
By: Wilfred Wilson Gibson