Home > Uncategorized > Alfred Noyes: Slaughter! Slaughter! Slaughter!

Alfred Noyes: Slaughter! Slaughter! Slaughter!


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

Alfred Noyes: Selections on war


Alfred Noyes
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)


They had broken their hearts on the cold machines;
And – they had not seen their foe;
And the reason of this butcher’s work
It was not theirs to know;
For these tall young men were children
Five short years ago.

Headlong, headlong, down the hill,
They leapt across their dead.
Like madmen, wrapt in sheets of flame,
Yelling out of their hell they came,
And, in among their plunging hordes,
The shrapnel burst and spread.

The shrapnel severed the leaping limbs
And shrieked above their flight.
They rolled and plunged and writhed like snakes
In the red hill-brooks and the black thorn brakes.
Their mangled bodies tumbled like elves
In a wild Walpurgis night.

Slaughter! Slaughter! Slaughter!
The cold machines whirred on.
And strange things crawled amongst the wheat
With entrails dragging round their feet,
And over the foul red shambles
A fearful sunlight shone.


Down, into the valley of wheat,
And the warm dead that lay at their feet,
The men they had slaughtered, slaughtered, slaughtered,
Grinned up at their flight.


The black earth yawned like a crimson mouth,
And slaughter, slaughter, slaughter, slaughter,
The trenches belched their flame.
The maxims cracked like cattle-whips
Above the struggling hordes.
They rolled and plunged and writhed like snakes
In the trampled wheat and the black thorn brakes,
And the lightnings leapt among them
Like clashing crimson swords.

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