Somme: grete sorowe
I – Gommecourt
And so on the morne he harde his masse and toke hys armys
and so toke hys leve, and mownted upon hys horse and rode
into a foreyst and helde no hygheway.
Coming up into morning the stumbling men, bayonets lit, blind,
newborn, shambling then charging the three flat furlongs, turf levelling
and buckling, the clatter out of the wood ahead and each fall a thinning
and a sharpening of the summer.
‘There they go!’ someone says.
And the dwindling line walks into the smoke and disappears.
II – Serre
So they began a grete turnemente, and every hurteled with other…
And at the laste… were putte to the wars.
At the wire they gather, bunched as women at a trodden well.
They all come in and are shot there, surprised or grim with heads down,
a pile up. None pass through; some swing on the wire like sails.
III – Beaumont-Hamel
the which woll make the to falle into the depe pitte of helle
In each crater, bodies, dropped fruit from a harvest, husked in grey and khaki.
Thick hands of fingers, legs lopped away, heads, some in tin hats, some loose.
In one hole full of water, an arm stuck out, swordless, slopped gently.
IV – Thiepval
And thorow the watyr he muste nedis passe, the wyche was hedyous.
Down the tunnels the candled miners creep, listen, the stretched front man
lunging his bayonet, the earth-face like old cheese, clay chocks to be passed over
necks and bellies, the cold whiff, mould. Always water in that black place,
the walls sweating and running, drips and wrist-deep pools.
Dirty, faceless, they offend the officers, no salutes, unutterable.
V – La Boisselle
One village and its great elms thrown a mile from the earth: a parish gone,
deep roots ripped from the country leaving a socket, vast and extinct.
Through the morning the dead roll in and the half dead.
A great moted eye, raw, unblinking, glaring at an empty sky.
VI – Mametz
And for grete pryde thy madest grete sorowe.
At the foot of a cross by the village end they put a machine gun
and wait, no birds, silence, sun flickering the wood.
They shoot them just as they are, walking, familiar as deer.
They fall, sit in the road. A hundred and fifty nine: like a village ended.