Italy – Elegy For B. H. W. (1915)

I CALL you, and I call you. Oh, come home, You lonely creature. Cursèd be the clown Who plugged you with that lead, and knocked you down.

Stand up again and laugh, you wandering friend. Say, as you would, ” It’s just a little hole :

It will soon mend.”

Walk now into the room. Come ! Come ! Come ! Come!

Come ! We will laugh together all the night (When I have poured you out a glass or two).

Sit down. Our mutual mirth will reach its height When we remember how they called you dead ; And I shall ask you how it felt, and you ” Oh nothing !—Just a tumble. Rather hot The feeling in my side, and then my head A trifle dizzy but I’m back again.

I lay there rather long, and I’ve still got (When I think of it) just a little pain.”

II

I know the way you stumbled. Once you slid, And landed on your side. I noticed then A trick of falling ; some peculiar glide, A curious movement, not like other men.

Elegy for B.H.W. (1915)

But did your mouth drop open ? Did your breath Hurt you ? What sort of feeling quickly came When you discovered that it might be death ?

And what will happen if I shout your name ? Perhaps you may be there behind that door ; And, if I raise my voice a little more, You’ll swing it open. I don’t know how thick The black partition is between us two.

You may be there—almost there—coming quick—Listen ! The door-bell rang ! Perhaps it’s you…

You’re in the room. You’re sitting in that chair. You are !—I will go down. It was the bell. You may be waiting at the door as well.

And what a shout I’ll give if you are there ! —They’ve rigged you in your uniform to-day : You take a momentary martial stand,

Then step inside, and hold me out your hand, And laugh in that old solitary way.

You don’t know why you did it . . . All this while You’ve slaved and sweated. Now you’re very strong . . .

And so you tell me with a knowing smile :

” We’re going off to Flanders before long.”

I thought you’ld come back with an ugly hole Below your thigh,

And ask for sympathy, and wander lame. I thought you’ld be the same

Rambling companion, without self-control . . . I never thought you’ld die.

III

Now let us both forget this brief affair.

Let us begin our friendship all again.

I’m going down to meet you on the stair.

Come ! Come !—for I can see you, plain.

How strange ! A moment I did think you dead. How foolish of me !

Friend ! Friend ! Are you dumb ? Why are you pale ? Why do you hang your head ? You see me ? Here’s my hand. Why don’t you come ?

Don’t make me angry. You are there I know. Is not my house your house ? There is a bed Upstairs. You’re tired. Lie down (you must).

Come home.

Some men are killed not you. Be as you were. And yet somehow it’s dark down all the stair. I’m looking in the street. . . . You are not there.