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Editor's Selection of Poems
Prelude: The Troops

by Siegfried Sassoon

Dim, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloom   
Shudders to drizzling daybreak that reveals   
Disconsolate men who stamp their sodden boots   
And turn dulled, sunken faces to the sky   
Haggard and hopeless. They, who have beaten down  
The stale despair of night, must now renew   
Their desolation in the truce of dawn,   
Murdering the livid hours that grope for peace.   
   
Yet these, who cling to life with stubborn hands,   
Can grin through storms of death and find a gap  
In the clawed, cruel tangles of his defence.   
They march from safety, and the bird-sung joy   
Of grass-green thickets, to the land where all   
Is ruin, and nothing blossoms but the sky   
That hastens over them where they endure   
Sad, smoking, flat horizons, reeking woods,   
And foundered trench-lines volleying doom for doom.   
   
O my brave brown companions, when your souls   
Flock silently away, and the eyeless dead   
Shame the wild beast of battle on the ridge,  
Death will stand grieving in that field of war   
Since your unvanquished hardihood is spent.   
And through some mooned Valhalla there will pass   
Battalions and battalions, scarred from hell;   
The unreturning army that was youth;   
The legions who have suffered and are dust. 
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