The Sentry

We'd found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,
And gave us hell; for shell on frantic shell
Lit full on top, but never quite burst through.
Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime,
Kept slush waist-high and rising hour by hour, (5)
And choked the steps too thick with clay to climb.
What murk of air remained stank old, and sour
With fumes from whizz-bangs, and the smell of men
Who'd lived there years, and left their curse in the den,
If not their corpses... (10)
There we herded from the blast
Of whizz-bangs; but one found our door at last,---
Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles,
And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping
And sploshing in the flood, deluging muck, (15)
The sentry's body; then his rifle, handles
Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.
We dredged it up, for dead, until he whined,
'O sir---my eyes,---I'm blind,---I'm blind,---I'm blind.'
Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids (20)
And said if he could see the least blurred light
He was not blind; in time they'd get all right
'I can't,' he sobbed. Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids',
Watch my dreams still,---yet I forgot him there
In posting Next for duty, and sending a scout (25)
To beg a stretcher somewhere, and flound' ring about
To other posts under the shrieking air.

Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,
And one who would have drowned himself for good,---
I try not to remember these things now. (30)
Let Dread hark back for one word only: how,
Half-listening to that sentry's moans and jumps,
And the wild chattering of his shivered teeth,
Renewed most horribly whenever crumps
Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath,--- (35)
Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout
'I see your lights!'---But ours had long gone out. 

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