Verse > Anthologies > Louis Untermeyer, ed. > Modern British Poetry
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Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern British Poetry.  1920.
 
Robert Graves. 1895–
 
174. It's a Queer Time
 
IT'S hard to know if you're alive or dead 
When steel and fire go roaring through your head. 
  
One moment you'll be crouching at your gun 
Traversing, mowing heaps down half in fun: 
The next, you choke and clutch at your right breast—         5
No time to think—leave all—and off you go... 
To Treasure Island where the Spice winds blow, 
To lovely groves of mango, quince and lime— 
Breathe no good-bye, but ho, for the Red West! 
        It's a queer time.  10
  
You're charging madly at them yelling "Fag!" 
When somehow something gives and your feet drag. 
You fall and strike your head; yet feel no pain 
And find ... you're digging tunnels through the hay 
In the Big Barn, 'cause it's a rainy day.  15
Oh, springy hay, and lovely beams to climb! 
You're back in the old sailor suit again. 
        It's a queer time. 
  
Or you'll be dozing safe in your dug-out— 
A great roar—the trench shakes and falls about—  20
You're struggling, gasping, struggling, then ... hullo! 
Elsie comes tripping gaily down the trench, 
Hanky to nose—that lyddite makes a stench— 
Getting her pinafore all over grime. 
Funny! because she died ten years ago!  25
        It's a queer time. 
  
The trouble is, things happen much too quick; 
Up jump the Boches, rifles thump and click, 
You stagger, and the whole scene fades away: 
Even good Christians don't like passing straight  30
From Tipperary or their Hymn of Hate 
To Alleluiah-chanting, and the chime 
Of golden harps ... and ... I'm not well to-day... 
        It's a queer time. 
 
 
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