Verse > Thomas Hardy > Wessex Poems and Other Verses
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Thomas Hardy (1840–1928).  Wessex Poems and Other Verses.  1898.
 
19. Valenciennes
 
 
WE trenched, we trumpeted and drummed,
And from our mortars tons of iron hummed
  Ath’art the ditch, the month we bombed
    The Town o’ Valencieën.
 
  ’Twas in the June o’ Ninety-dree        5
(The Duke o’ Yark our then Commander beën)
  The German Legion, Guards, and we
    Laid siege to Valencieën.
 
  This was the first time in the war
That French and English spilled each other’s gore;        10
  —God knows what year will end the roar
    Begun at Valencieën!
 
  ’Twas said that we’d no business there
A-topperèn the French for disagreën;
  However, that’s not my affair—        15
    We were at Valencieën.
 
  Such snocks and slats, since war began
Never knew raw recruit or veteràn:
  Stone-deaf therence went many a man
    Who served at Valencieën.        20
 
  Into the streets, ath’art the sky,
A hundred thousand balls and bombs were fleën;
  And harmless townsfolk fell to die
    Each hour at Valencieën!
 
  And, sweatèn wi’ the bombardiers,        25
A shell was slent to shards anighst my ears:
  —’Twas night the end of hopes and fears
    For me at Valencieën!
 
  They bore my wownded frame to camp,
And shut my gapèn skull, and washed en cleän,        30
  And jined en wi’ a zilver clamp
    Thik night at Valencieën.
 
  “We’ve fetched en back to quick from dead;
But never more on earth while rose is red
  Will drum rouse Corpel!” Doctor said        35
    O’ me at Valencieën.
 
  ’Twer true. No voice o’ friend or foe
Can reach me now, or any liveèn beën;
  And little have I power to know
    Since then at Valencieën!        40
 
  I never hear the zummer hums
O’ bees; and don’t know when the cuckoo comes;
  But night and day I hear the bombs
    We threw at Valencieën….
 
  As for the Duke o’ Yark in war,        45
There be some volk whose judgment o’ en is meän;
  But this I say—’a was not far
    From great at Valencieën.
 
  O’ wild wet nights, when all seems sad,
My wownds come back, as though new wownds I’d had;        50
  But yet—at times I’m sort o’ glad
    I fout at Valencieën.
 
  Well: Heaven wi’ its jasper halls
Is now the on’y Town I care to be in….
  Good Lord, if Nick should bomb the walls        55
    As we did Valencieën!

1878–1897.
 

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