Edward Shanks

Marching at Home: Pictures

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Under a grey dawn, timidly breaking,
Through the little village the men are waking
Easing their stiff limbs and rubbing their eyes;
From my misted window I watch the sun rise.
In the middle of the village a fountain stands,
Round it the men sit, washing their red hands.
Slowly the light grows, we call the roll over,
Bring the laggards stumbling from their warm cover,
Slowly the company gathers all together
And the men and the officer look shyly at the weather.
By the left, quick march! Off the column goes.
All through the village all the windows unclose:
At every window stands a child, early waking,
To see what road the company is taking.

The wind is cold and heavy
And storms are in the sky:
Our path across the heather
Goes higher and more high.

To right, the town we came from,
To left, blue hills and sea:
The wind is growing colder,
And shivering are we.

We drag with stiffening fingers
Our rifles up the hill.
The path is steep and tangled,
But leads to Flanders still.

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Edward Shanks