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Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967).  Picture-Show.  1920.

4. Night on the Convoy

(ALEXANDRIA-MARSEILLES)

OUT in the blustering darkness, on the deck 
A gleam of stars looks down. Long blurs of black, 
The lean Destroyers, level with our track, 
Plunging and stealing, watch the perilous way 
Through backward racing seas and caverns of chill spray.         5
One sentry by the davits, in the gloom 
Stands mute: the boat heaves onward through the night. 
Shrouded is every chink of cabined light: 
And sluiced by floundering waves that hiss and boom 
And crash like guns, the troop-ship shudders ... doom.  10
  
Now something at my feet stirs with a sigh; 
And slowly growing used to groping dark, 
I know that the hurricane-deck, down all its length, 
Is heaped and spread with lads in sprawling strength— 
Blanketed soldiers sleeping. In the stark  15
Danger of life at war, they lie so still, 
All prostrate and defenceless, head by head... 
And I remember Arras, and that hill 
Where dumb with pain I stumbled among the dead. 
  
We are going home. The troop-ship, in a thrill  20
Of fiery-chamber’d anguish, throbs and rolls. 
We are going home ... victims ... three thousand souls.

May 1918.
 


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