Home  »  A Treasury of War Poetry  »  No Man’s Land

George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953). A Treasury of War Poetry. 1917.

James H. Knight-Adkin

No Man’s Land

NO Man’s Land is an eerie sight

At early dawn in the pale gray light.

Never a house and never a hedge

In No Man’s Land from edge to edge,

And never a living soul walks there

To taste the fresh of the morning air;—

Only some lumps of rotting clay,

That were friends or foemen yesterday.

What are the bounds of No Man’s Land?

You can see them clearly on either hand,

A mound of rag-bags gray in the sun,

Or a furrow of brown where the earthworks run

From the eastern hills to the western sea,

Through field or forest o’er river and lea;

No man may pass them, but aim you well

And Death rides across on the bullet or shell.

But No Man’s Land is a goblin sight

When patrols crawl over at dead o’ night;

Boche or British, Belgian or French,

You dice with death when you cross the trench.

When the “rapid,” like fireflies in the dark,

Flits down the parapet spark by spark,

And you drop for cover to keep your head

With your face on the breast of the four months’ dead.

The man who ranges in No Man’s Land

Is dogged by the shadows on either hand

When the star-shell’s flare, as it bursts o’erhead,

Scares the gray rats that feed on the dead,

And the bursting bomb or the bayonet-snatch

May answer the click of your safety-catch,

For the lone patrol, with his life in his hand,

Is hunting for blood in No Man’s Land.