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

James H. Knight-Adkin

“On Les Aura!”

SEE you that stretch of shell-torn mud spotted with pools of mire,

Crossed by a burst abandoned trench and tortured strands of wire,

Where splintered pickets reel and sag and leprous trench-rats play,

That scour the Devil’s hunting-ground to seek their carrion prey?

That is the field my father loved, the field that once was mine,

The land I nursed for my child’s child as my fathers did long syne.

See there a mound of powdered stones, all flattened, smashed, and torn,

Gone black with damp and green with slime?—Ere you and I were born

My father’s father built a house, a little house and bare,

And there I brought my woman home—that heap of rubble there!

The soil of France! Fat fields and green that bred my blood and bone!

Each wound that scars my bosom’s pride burns deeper than my own.

But yet there is one thing to say—one thing that pays for all,

Whatever lot our bodies know, whatever fate befall,

We hold the line! We hold it still! My fields are No Man’s Land,

But the good God is debonair and holds us by the hand.

“On les aura!” See there! and there! soaked heaps of huddled grey!

My fields shall laugh—enriched by those who sought them for a prey.