Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
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Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
 
IV. Inevitable
Three Poems
iii. The Recruit
By Florence Randal Livesay (1874–1953)
 
Translated from the Ukrainian of Fedkovich

IN the great Emperor’s courtyard
He stood at his post on the pavement.
He washed his face and dried it
As the duck her wings in water.
He washed his face with his tears.—        5
None saw or heard in the silence.
 
He leaned his head on the bayonet
And slept for a precious moment,
In the great Emperor’s courtyard
He slept on his sharp-tipped bayonet.        10
 
He dreamt that he walked on a mountain—
O blue was the dream-like mountain!
Brushing his hair in ringlets
He walked on thinking, thinking:
Why does my mother write not,        15
Or can she still be living?
 
He heard her answer softly:
‘I would like, my son, to write you,
But they made me a tomb so lofty
That I may not rise from beneath it.        20
Oh, rise I cannot, my Eagle!
For deep below, on the bottom,
They have covered my hands with earth-clods,
With earth that is lying heavy.’
 
In the great Emperor’s courtyard        25
He would have dreamt still longer
But the bell on high St. Stephen’s
Rang with a noisy clamour …
 
He wiped his face from the misting,
His bayonet wiped he dully …        30
Blood flows on the courtyard pavement
From the soldier lying dead there.
 
 
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