Walter James Redfern Turner

The Sky-Sent Death

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"A German aeroplane flew over Greek territory dropping a bomb which
killed a shepherd."


'Sitting on a stone a Shepherd,
Stone and Shepherd sleeping,
Under the high blue Attic sky;
Along the green monotony
Grey sheep creeping, creeping'.

Deep down on the hill and valley,
At the bottom of the sunshine,
Like great Ships in clearest water,
Water holding anchored Shadows,
Water without wave or ripple,
Sunshine deep and clear and heavy,
Sunshine like a booming bell
Made of purest golden metal,
White Ships heavy in the sky
Sleep with anchored shadow.

Pipe a song in that still air
And the song would be of crystal
Snapped in silence, or a bronze vase
Smooth and graceful, curved and shining.
Tell an old tale or a history;
It would seem a slow Procession
Full of gestures; limbs and torso
White and rounded in the sunlight.

'Sitting on a stone a Shepherd,
Stone and Shepherd sleeping,
Like a fragment of old marble
Dug up from the hillside shadow'.

In the sunshine deep and soundless
Came a faint metallic humming;
In the sunshine clear and heavy
Came a speck, a speck of shadow--
Shepherd lift your head and listen,
Listen to that humming Shadow!

'Sitting on a stone the Shepherd,
Stone and Shepherd sleeping
In a sleep dreamless as water,
Water in a white glass beaker,
Clear, pellucid, without shadow;
Underneath a sky-blue crystal
Sees his grey sheep creeping'.

In the sunshine clear and heavy
Shadow-fled a dark hand downward:
In the sunshine deep and soundless
Burst a star-dropt thing of thunder--
Smoked the burnt blue air's torn veiling
Drooping softly round the hillside.

Boomed the silence in returning
To the crater in the hillside,
To the red earth fresh and bleeding,
To the mangled heap remaining:
Far away that humming Shadow
Vanished in the azure distance.

'Sitting on a stone no Shepherd,
Stone and Shepherd sleeping,
But across the hill and valley
Grey sheep creeping, creeping,
Standing carven on the sky-line,
Scattering in the open distance,
Free, in no man's keeping'.

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Walter James Redfern Turner