Foule! Ton âme entière est debout
dans mon corps. Jules Romains
in many acts and quiet observances
a body and a soul, entire.
I cannot tell
what time your life became mine:
perhaps when one summer night
we halted on the roadside
in the starlight only
and you sang your sad home-songs
dirges which I standing outside you
Perhaps, one night, descending cold
when rum was mighty acceptable
and my doling gave birth to sensual gratitude.
And then our fights: we've fought together
and I have felt the pride of leadership.
In many acts and quiet observances
you absorbed me:
Until one day I stood eminent
and I saw you gather'd round me
and about you a radiance that seemed to beat
with variant glow and to give
grace to our unity.
But, God! I know that I'll stand
someday in the loneliest wilderness
someday my heart will cry
for the soul that has been, but that now
is scatter'd with the winds,
deceased and devoid.
I know that I'll wander with a cry:
O beautiful men, O men I loved
O whither are you gone, my company?'
My men go wearily
with their monstrous burdens.
They bear wooden planks
and iron sheeting
through the area of death.
When flare curves through the sky
they rest immobile.
Then on again
Sweating and blaspheming--
Oh, bloody Christ!'
My men, my modern Christs
your bloody agony confronts the world.
A man of mine
lies on the wire.
It is death to fetch his soulless corpse.
A man of mine
lies on the wire;
And he will rot
and first his lips
the worms will eat.
It is not thus I would have him kiss'd
but with the warm passionate lips
of his comrade here.
I can assume
a giant attitude and godlike mood
and then detachedly regard
all riots, conflicts and collisions.
The men I've lived with
lurch suddenly into a far perspective:
They distantly gather like a dark cloud of birds
in the autumn sky.
Urged by some unanimous
volition or fate
Clouds clash in opposition:
The sky quivers, the dead descend;
They are all of one species.
From my giant attitude
in godlike mood
I laugh till space is filled
with hellish merriment.
Then again I assumeHerbert Read (1893-1968)
my human docility
bow my head
and share their doom.