Between the Trenches

Willoughby Weaving

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How strangely did you break upon
That sudden land beyond life's veil?
A moment did your spirit fail,
As mine when first I knew you gone
The last dark journey, saw your clay
So vacant, loveless, borne away,
And the features, that I loved to scan,
The same but of another man
Unknown - a bright dream all undone.

What stranger did the bearers lift
In their soiled stretcher lightly laid
Where I had seen you fall adrift
From life - had time to be afraid?
That, all of you that had breathed and moved
That, none of you that lived and loved,
A hush that so I seemed to hate
For claiming still its lost inmate,
A false pretence, a solid shade.

Shadow more solid, but less real
Than love and laughter whence it fell
Across my path with mute appeal
And served your spirit's purpose well -
So well that even I could see
It indistinguishably thee,
Till you had left it like a sheath
With laughter in the hands of death,
And left me gay, not miserable.

Ah, love had never more to lose:
If certain love had less to tell
Then might I in despair's excuse
Bid you a hopeless, vain farewell,
And by the stranger's grave have wept
A solemn while, and sadly kept
In mind his features filled not through
With breathing life, love living, you
Who smiled upon his burial.

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