Patrick MacGill

Letters in the Trenches

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The post comes to us nightly, we hail the post with glee –
For now we’re not as many as once we used to be:
For some have done their fighting, packed up and gone away,
And many lads are sleeping – no sound will break their sleeping;
Brave lusty comrades sleeping in their little homes of clay.

We all have read our letters but there’s one untouched so far –
An English maiden’s letter to her sweetheart at the war:
And when we write in answer to tell her how he fell,
What can we say to cheer her, oh, what is now to cheer her?-
There’s nothing to cheer her; there’s just the news to tell.

We’ll write to her tomorrow and this is what we’ll say:
He breathed her name in dying; in peace he passed away:
No words about his moaning, his anguish and his pain,
When slowly, slowly dying – God! Fifteen hours in dying!
He lay all maimed and dying, alone upon the plain.

We often write to mothers, to sweethearts and to wives,
And tell how those who loved them had given up their lives.
If we’re not always truthful our lies are always kind –
Our letters lie to cheer them, to comfort and to help them –
Oh, anything to help them – the women left behind.

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