Friday, 2 March 2012

Song of the Dark Ages

From the Francis Brett Young Society
We digged our trenches on the down
   Beside old barrows, and the wet
White chalk we shovelled from below;
It lay in drifts of thawing snow
   On prados and parapet:

Until a pick neither struck flint
   Nor split the yielding chalky soil,
But only calcined human bone :
Poor relic of that Age of Stone
   Whose ossuary was our spoil.

Home we marched singing in the rain,
   And all the while, beneath our song,
I mused how many springs should wane
And still our trenches scar the plain:
   The monument of an old wrong.

But then, I thought, the fair green sod
   Will wholly cover that white stain,
And soften, as it clothes the face
Of those old barrows, every trace
   Of violence to the patient plain.

And careless people, passing by
   Will speak of both in casual tone:
Saying: "You see the toil they made:
The age of iron, pick and spade,
   Here jostles with the Age of Stone."

Yet either from that happier race
   Will merit but a passing glance;
And they will leave us both alone:
Poor savages who wrought in stone-
   Poor savages who fought in France.

Francis Brett Young (1884 - 1954)


Anonymous said...

Crikey! That was like a trip in Dr. Who's time machine! Straight back 50+ years to Salisbury Plain and trying to dig a trench in that bloody chalk!

A K Haart said...

It chimed with me too - for a different and more recent reason - bricks and lumps of concrete in our garden soil!