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Thomas Hardy (1840–1928). Wessex Poems and Other Verses. 1898.

19. Valenciennes

WE trenched, we trumpeted and drummed,

And from our mortars tons of iron hummed

Ath’art the ditch, the month we bombed

The Town o’ Valencieën.

’Twas in the June o’ Ninety-dree

(The Duke o’ Yark our then Commander beën)

The German Legion, Guards, and we

Laid siege to Valencieën.

This was the first time in the war

That French and English spilled each other’s gore;

—God knows what year will end the roar

Begun at Valencieën!

’Twas said that we’d no business there

A-topperèn the French for disagreën;

However, that’s not my affair—

We were at Valencieën.

Such snocks and slats, since war began

Never knew raw recruit or veteràn:

Stone-deaf therence went many a man

Who served at Valencieën.

Into the streets, ath’art the sky,

A hundred thousand balls and bombs were fleën;

And harmless townsfolk fell to die

Each hour at Valencieën!

And, sweatèn wi’ the bombardiers,

A shell was slent to shards anighst my ears:

—’Twas night the end of hopes and fears

For me at Valencieën!

They bore my wownded frame to camp,

And shut my gapèn skull, and washed en cleän,

And jined en wi’ a zilver clamp

Thik night at Valencieën.

“We’ve fetched en back to quick from dead;

But never more on earth while rose is red

Will drum rouse Corpel!” Doctor said

O’ me at Valencieën.

’Twer true. No voice o’ friend or foe

Can reach me now, or any liveèn beën;

And little have I power to know

Since then at Valencieën!

I never hear the zummer hums

O’ bees; and don’t know when the cuckoo comes;

But night and day I hear the bombs

We threw at Valencieën.…

As for the Duke o’ Yark in war,

There be some volk whose judgment o’ en is meän;

But this I say—’a was not far

From great at Valencieën.

O’ wild wet nights, when all seems sad,

My wownds come back, as though new wownds I’d had;

But yet—at times I’m sort o’ glad

I fout at Valencieën.

Well: Heaven wi’ its jasper halls

Is now the on’y Town I care to be in.…

Good Lord, if Nick should bomb the walls

As we did Valencieën!