Trench Lines: The Tired Heart

Written in 1915, apart from verse 6 which was added after the death of his younger brother the following year, this poem was published in The London Mercury in 1926 after his change of name to R. A. Vallance. The poem later appeared in the anthology The Red Harvest: A Cry for Peace (Macmillan, USA, 1930).

Trench Lines: The Tired Heart

It has come at last; we attack at morn:
And this is the end, for me.
Over my spirit to-night is borne
The calm decree.

I do not question: I do not moan:
And now that death’s so near
My thoughts are fled to a plane unknown
To hope, or fear.

I’m thinking how sad it is, I’m wondering how,
Having been so inspired –
Having been so eager – my heart can now
Be so tired.

I’m thinking of Brooke, with his golden store
Of song forever still’d:
Of Grenfell and Sorley, and many more,
Killed, killed.

Men who were true, at the dawn of day –
True to the best thty knew;
Proud to be up, and the first away,
When the whistles blew …

I have lost my brother, I have lost my friends,
And my faith, and my youth, and my zest ;
And found nothing: but when it ends
I shall find rest.

O, I can go under; I only ask,
May it be clean, and quick:
I have done my best at a poor task
And my heart is sick.

But let it be death, Lord, not maiming,
And silence when I fall:
Shatter this body beyond reclaiming,
Or not at all.

O, fear not, England! I shall be true:
The tired heart may shirk,
But the mind will teach the arm to do
Its devil’s work.

And if it be hard, when the whistles blow,
To be true to the old school-song,
It’s only because in my heart I know
It’s all, all wrong.


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