Verse > Anthologies > George Herbert Clarke, ed. > A Treasury of War Poetry
George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953).  A Treasury of War Poetry.  1917.
41. Men of Verdun
By Laurence Binyon
THERE are five men in the moonlight
  That by their shadows stand;
Three hobble humped on crutches,
  And two lack each a hand.
Frogs somewhere near the roadside        5
  Chorus their chant absorbed:
But a hush breathes out of the dream-light
  That far in heaven is orbed.
It is gentle as sleep falling
  And wide as thought can span,        10
The ancient peace and wonder
  That brims the heart of man.
Beyond the hills it shines now
  On no peace but the dead,
On reek of trenches thunder-shocked,        15
Tense fury of wills in wrestle locked,
  A chaos crumbled red!
The five men in the moonlight
  Chat, joke, or gaze apart.
They talk of days and comrades,        20
  But each one hides his heart.
They wear clean cap and tunic,
  As when they went to war;
A gleam comes where the medal’s pinned:
  But they will fight no more.        25
The shadows, maimed and antic,
  Gesture and shape distort,
Like mockery of a demon dumb
Out of the hell-din whence they come
  That dogs them for his sport:        30
But as if dead men were risen
  And stood before me there
With a terrible fame about them blown
  In beams of spectral air,
I see them, men transfigured        35
  As in a dream, dilate
Fabulous with the Titan-throb
  Of battling Europe’s fate;
For history’s hushed before them,
  And legend flames afresh,—        40
Verdun, the name of thunder,
  Is written on their flesh.


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