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Edmund Blunden: Harsher screamed the condor war


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

British writers on peace and war

Edmund Blunden: Writings on war


Edmund Blunden
War Autobiography
Written in Illness

Heaven is clouded, mists of rain
Stream with idle motion by;
Like a tide the trees’ refrain
Wearies me where pale I lie,
Thinking of sunny times that were
Even in shattered Festubert;
Stubborn joys that blossomed on
When the small golden god was gone

Who tiptoe on his spire surveyed
Yser north from Ypres creeping,
And, how many a sunset! made
A longed-for glory amid the weeping.
In how many a valley of death
Some trifling thing has given me breath,
And when the bat-like wings brushed by
What steady stars smiled in the sky!

War might make his worst grimace
And still my mind in armour good
Turned aside in every place
And saw bright day through the black wood:
There the lyddite vapoured foul,
But there I got myself a rose;
By the shrapnelled lock I’d prowl
To see below the proud pike doze.

Like the first light ever streamed
New and lively past all telling,
What I dreamed of joy I dreamed,
The more opprest the more rebelling;
Trees ne’er shone so lusty green
As those in Hamel valley, eyes
Did never such right friendship mean
As his who loved my enterprise.

Thus the child was born again
In the youth, the toga’s care
Flung aside -desired, found vain,
And sharp as ichor grew the air:
But the hours passed and evermore
Harsher screamed the condor war,
The last green tree was scourged to nothing,
The stream’s decay left senses loathing,

The eyes that had been strength so long
Gone, or blind, or lapt in clay,
And war grown twenty times as strong
As when I held him first at bay;
Then down and down I sunk from joy
To shrivelled age, though scarce a boy,
And knew for all my fear to die
That I with those lost friends should lie.

Now in slow imprisoned pain
Lie I in the garret bed
With this crampt and weighted brain
That scarce has power to wish me fled
To burst the vault and soar away
Into the apocalypse of day,
And so regain that tingling light
That twice has passed before my sight.


A Farm Near Zillebeke

Black clouds hide the moon, the amazement is gone;
The morning will come in weeping and rain;
The Line is all hushed – on a sudden anon
The fool bullets clack and guns mouth again.

I stood in the yard of a house that must die,
And still the black hame was stacked by the door,
And harness still hung there, and the dray waited by.
Black clouds hid the moon, tears blinded me more.

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