Alfred Noyes: Scarecrows that once were men
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)
A thousand miles, a thousand years,
And all so still and fair,
Then, like some huge invisible train,
Splitting the blue heavens in twain,
Out of the quiet distance rushed
A thunder of shrieking air.
The earth shook below them,
And lightnings lashed the sky,
The trees danced in the fires of hell,
The walls burst like a bursting shell;
And a bloody mouth gnawed at the stones
Like a rat, with a thin cry.
Then, all across the valley,
Deep silence reigned anew:
There was no cloud in the blue sky,
No sight, no sound of an enemy,
But the red, wet shape beside Johann,
And that lay silent, too.
A bugle like a scourge of brass
Whipped thro’ nerve and brain;
Up from their iron-furrowed beds
The long lines with bowed heads
Plunged to meet the hidden Death
Across the naked plain.
They leapt across the lewd flesh
That twisted at their feet;
They leapt across wild shapes that lay
Stark, besmeared with blood and clay
Like the great dead birds, with the glazed eyes,
That the farmer hangs in the wheat.
Johann plunged onward, counting them,
Scarecrows that once were men.