Field Manœuvres

By Richard Aldington

(Outpost Duty)

The long autumn grass beneath my body
Soaks my clothes in dew;
Where my knees press into the ground
I can feel the damp earth.

In my nostrils is a smell of crushed grass,
Wet pine-cones and bark.

Through the bronze pine trunks
Glitters a silver segment of road.

Interminable squadrons of silver and grey horses
Pace in long ranks the blank fields of heaven.

There is no sound;
The wind hisses gently through the pine-needles;
The flutter of a finch’s wings about my head
Is violent as distant thunder,
And the shrill flight of a gnat
Sounds loud and clear.

I am “to fire at the enemy column
After it has passed”—
But my rifle (loaded with “blank”)
Lies untouched before me,
My spirit follows the gliding clouds
And my lips murmur of the mother of beauty
Standing breast-high in golden broom
Among the English pine-woods!

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