He drowsed and was aware of silence heaped
Round him, unshaken as the steadfast walls;
Aqueous like floating rays of amber light,
Soaring and quivering in the wings of sleep.
Silence and safety; and his mortal shore
Lipped by the inward, moonless waves of death.
Someone was holding water to his mouth.
He swallowed, unresisting; moaned and dropped
Through crimson gloom to darkness; and forgot
The opiate throb and ache that was his wound.
Water -- calm, sliding green above the weir.
Water -- a sky-lit alley for his boat,
Bird-voiced, and bordered with reflected flowers
And shaken hues of summer; drifting down,
He dipped contented oars, and sighed, and slept.
Night, with a gust of wind, was in the ward,
Blowing the curtain to a glimmering curve.
Night. He was blind; he could not see the stars
Glinting among the wraiths of wandering cloud;
Queer blots of colour, purple, scarlet, green,
Flickered and faded in his drowning eyes.
Rain -- he could hear it rustling through the dark;
Fragrance and passionless music woven as one;
Warm rain on drooping roses; pattering showers
That soak the woods; not the harsh rain that sweeps
Behind the thunder, but a trickling peace,
Gently and slowly washing life away.
* * * *
He stirred, shifting his body; then the pain
Leapt like a prowling beast, and gripped and tore
His groping dreams with grinding claws and fangs.
But someone was beside him; soon he lay
Shuddering because that evil thing had passed.
And death, who'd stepped toward him, paused and stared.
Light many lamps and gather round his bed.
Lend him your eyes, warm blood, and will to live.
Speak to him; rouse him; you may save him yet.
He's young; he hated War; how should he die
When cruel old campaigners win safe through?
But death replied: "I choose him." So he went,
And there was silence in the summer night;
Silence and safety; and the veils of sleep.
Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.
List of language codes
Confirmed with Siegfried Sassoon, THE OLD HUNTSMAN and other poems, William Heinemann, London, 1918, page 94
Submitted by Emily Ezust and Pierre Mathé
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)
Available translations, adaptations, and transliterations (if applicable):
- FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , title 1: "Le lit de mort", copyright ©, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
Text added to the website: 2008-10-19.
Last modified: 2017-01-05 18:07:49
Line count: 43
Word count: 333
This website began in 1995 as a personal project, and I have been working
on it full-time without a salary since 2008. Our research has
never had any government or institutional funding, so if you
the information here useful, please consider making a donation. Your gift is greatly appreciated.
- Emily Ezust
Browse imslp.org (Petrucci Music Library) for Lieder or choral works