Ivor Gurney

(1890-1937 / England)

Canadians


We marched, and saw a company of Canadians
Their coats weighed eighty pounds at least, we saw them
Faces infinitely grimed in, with almost dead hands
Bent, slouching downwards to billets comfortless and dim.
Cave dwellers last of tribes they seemed, and a pity
Even from us just relieved (much as they were), left us.
Somme, what a desolation's damned land, what iniquity
Of mere being. There of what youth that country bereft us;
Plagues of evil lay in Death's Valley we also had .'
Forded that up to the thighs in chill mud almost still-stood
As they had gone — and endured day as night without sun.
Gone for five days then any sign of life glow
As the notched stumps or the gray clouds (then) we stood;
Dead past death from first hour and the needed mood
Of level pain shifting continually to and fro.
Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Stewart White ran in
My own mind; what in others? These men who finely
perhaps had chosen danger for reckless and fine chance
Fate had sent for suffering and dwelling obscenely
Vermin eaten, fed beastly, in vile ditches meanly.
(Backwoods or clean Quebec for defiled, ruined, man-killing France
And the silver thrush no more crying Canada — Canada for the memory.

Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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