Dead Man’s Dump

by Isaac Rosenberg

The plunging limbers over the shattered track 
Racketed with their rusty freight, 
Stuck out like many crowns of thorns, 
And the rusty stakes like sceptres old 
To stay the flood of brutish men 
Upon our brothers dear. 
 
The wheels lurched over sprawled dead 
But pained them not, though their bones crunched, 
Their shut mouths made no moan. 
They lie there huddled, friend and foeman, 
Man born of man, and born of woman, 
And shells go crying over them 
From night till night and now. 
 
Earth has waited for them, 
All the time of their growth 
Fretting for their decay: 
Now she has them at last! 
In the strength of their strength 
Suspended—stopped and held. 
 
What fierce imaginings their dark souls lit? 
Earth! have they gone into you! 
Somewhere they must have gone, 
And flung on your hard back 
Is their soul’s sack 
Emptied of God-ancestralled essences. 
Who hurled them out? Who hurled? 
 
None saw their spirits’ shadow shake the grass, 
Or stood aside for the half used life to pass 
Out of those doomed nostrils and the doomed mouth, 
When the swift iron burning bee 
Drained the wild honey of their youth. 
 
What of us who, flung on the shrieking pyre, 
Walk, our usual thoughts untouched, 
Our lucky limbs as on ichor fed, 
Immortal seeming ever? 
Perhaps when the flames beat loud on us, 
A fear may choke in our veins 
And the startled blood may stop. 
 
The air is loud with death, 
The dark air spurts with fire, 
The explosions ceaseless are. 
Timelessly now, some minutes past, 
Those dead strode time with vigorous life, 
Till the shrapnel called ‘An end!’ 
But not to all. In bleeding pangs 
Some borne on stretchers dreamed of home, 
Dear things, war-blotted from their hearts. 
 
Maniac Earth! howling and flying, your bowel 
Seared by the jagged fire, the iron love, 
The impetuous storm of savage love. 
Dark Earth! dark Heavens! swinging in chemic smoke, 
What dead are born when you kiss each soundless soul 
With lightning and thunder from your mined heart, 
Which man’s self dug, and his blind fingers loosed? 
 
A man’s brains splattered on 
A stretcher-bearer’s face; 
His shook shoulders slipped their load, 
But when they bent to look again 
The drowning soul was sunk too deep 
For human tenderness. 
 
They left this dead with the older dead, 
Stretched at the cross roads. 
 
Burnt black by strange decay 
Their sinister faces lie, 
The lid over each eye, 
The grass and coloured clay 
More motion have than they, 
Joined to the great sunk silences. 
 
Here is one not long dead; 
His dark hearing caught our far wheels, 
And the choked soul stretched weak hands 
To reach the living word the far wheels said, 
The blood-dazed intelligence beating for light,