Treasure Island

Isaac Rosenberg

(25 November 1890 – 1 April 1918 / Bristol / England)

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Break of Day in the Trenches


The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Terry Craddock (8/9/2014 6:55:00 PM)

    Almost a surrealist first few lines, to immortalize break of dawn, picking a poppy over the parapet, in a Great War trench; echoing through time. (Report) Reply

  • Poem Baby Cakes (9/17/2009 2:35:00 PM)

    it is a great poem that has touched my heart and i know see why members of my local club encouraged me to read it (Report) Reply

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