Siegfried Sassoon

The Dream

Moonlight and dew-drenched blossom, and the scent   
Of summer gardens; these can bring you all  
Those dreams that in the starlit silence fall:  
Sweet songs are full of odours.  
                                    While I went  
Last night in drizzling dusk along a lane, 
I passed a squalid farm; from byre and midden   
Came the rank smell that brought me once again   
A dream of war that in the past was hidden.  

Up a disconsolate straggling village street  
I saw the tired troops trudge: I heard their feet.  
The cheery Q.M.S. was there to meet  
And guide our Company in...  
                               I watched them stumble   
Into some crazy hovel, too beat to grumble;  
Saw them file inward, slipping from their backs  
Rifles, equipment, packs. 
On filthy straw they sit in the gloom, each face  
Bowed to patched, sodden boots they must unlace,  
While the wind chills their sweat through chinks and cracks.
I’m looking at their blistered feet; young Jones  
Stares up at me, mud-splashed and white and jaded;   
Out of his eyes the morning light has faded.  
Old soldiers with three winters in their bones  
Puff their damp Woodbines, whistle, stretch their toes:   
They can still grin at me, for each of ’em knows  
That I’m as tired as they are...  
                                      Can they guess 
The secret burden that is always mine?—  
Pride in their courage; pity for their distress;  
 And burning bitterness  
That I must take them to the accursèd Line.  
I cannot hear their voices, but I see 
Dim candles in the barn: they gulp their tea,   
And soon they’ll sleep like logs. Ten miles away   
The battle winks and thuds in blundering strife.   
And I must lead them nearer, day by day,  
To the foul beast of war that bludgeons life.