Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Land Mine Poem by Robert William Service


A grey gull hovered overhead,
Then wisely flew away.
'In half a jiffy you'll be dead,'
I thought I heard it say;
As there upon the railway line,
Checking an urge to cough,
I laboured to de-fuse the mine
That had not yet gone off.

I tapped around the time-clock rim,
Then something worried me.
I heard the singing of a hymn:
Nearer my God to Thee.
That damned Salvation Army band!
I phoned back to the boys:
'Please tell them,--they will understand,--
Cut out the bloody noise!'

Silence . . . I went to work anew,
And then I heard a tick
That told me the blast was due,--
I never ran so quick.
I heard the fury-roar behind;
The earth erupted hell,
As hoisted high and stunned and blind
Into a ditch I fell.

Then when at last I crawled from cover,
My hands were bloody raw;
And I was blue and bruised all over,
And this is what I saw:
All pale, but panting with elation,
And very much unstuck,
There was the Army of Salvation
Emerging from the muck.

And then I heard the Captain saying:
''Twas Heaven heard our pleas;
For there anight we all were praying
Down on our bended knees.
'Twas little hope your comrades gave you,
Though we had faith divine . . .
The blessed Lord stooped down to save you,
But Gosh! He cut it fine.'

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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