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Austin Dobson: Before Sedan


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war


Austin Dobson
Before Sedan (1873)

“The dead hand clasped a letter”

Here is this leafy place,
Quiet he lies,
Cold, with his sightless face
Turned to the skies;
‘Tis but another dead;
All you can say is said.

Carry his body hence, –
Kings must have slaves;
Kings climb to eminence
Over men’s graves:
So this man’s eye is dim; –
Throw the earth over him.

What was the white you touched,
There, at his side?
Paper his hand had clutched
Tight ere he died:
Message or wish, may be; –
Smooth the folds out and see.

Hardly the worst of us
Here could have smiled! –
Only the tremulous
Words of a child; –
Prattle, that has for stops
Just a few ruddy drops.

Look. She is sad to miss,
Morning and night,
His – her dead father’s – kiss;
Tries to be bright,
Good to mamma, and sweet.
That is all. “Marguerite.”

Ah, if beside the dead
Slumbered the pain!
Ah, if the hearts that bled
Slept with the slain!
If the grief died; – But no; –
Death will not have it so.

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