Verse > Siegfried Sassoon > The Old Huntsman and Other Poems

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967).  The Old Huntsman and Other Poems.  1918.

36. A Letter Home


HERE I’m sitting in the gloom
Of my quiet attic room. 
France goes rolling all around, 
Fledged with forest May has crowned. 
And I puff my pipe, calm-hearted,         5
Thinking how the fighting started, 
Wondering when we’ll ever end it, 
Back to Hell with Kaiser send it, 
Gag the noise, pack up and go, 
Clockwork soldiers in a row.  10
I’ve got better things to do 
Than to waste my time on you. 

Robert, when I drowse to-night,
Skirting lawns of sleep to chase 
Shifting dreams in mazy light,  15
Somewhere then I’ll see your face 
Turning back to bid me follow 
Where I wag my arms and hollo, 
Over hedges hasting after 
Crooked smile and baffling laughter.  20
  Running tireless, floating, leaping, 
  Down your web-hung woods and valleys, 
  Garden glooms and hornbeam alleys, 
  Where the glowworm stars are peeping, 
  Till I find you, quiet as stone  25
  On a hill-top all alone, 
  Staring outward, gravely pondering 
  Jumbled leagues of hillock-wandering. 

You and I have walked together
In the starving winter weather.  30
We’ve been glad because we knew 
Time’s too short and friends are few. 
We’ve been sad because we missed 
One whose yellow head was kissed 
By the gods, who thought about him  35
Till they couldn’t do without him. 
Now he’s here again; I’ve seen 
Soldier David dressed in green, 
Standing in a wood that swings 
To the madrigal he sings.  40
He’s come back, all mirth and glory, 
Like the prince in fairy story. 
Winter called him far away; 
Blossoms bring him home with May. 

Well, I know you’ll swear it’s true
That you found him decked in blue 
Striding up through morning-land 
With a cloud on either hand. 
Out in Wales, you’ll say, he marches, 
Arm in arm with oaks and larches;  50
Hides all night in hilly nooks, 
Laughs at dawn in tumbling brooks. 
  Yet, it’s certain, here he teaches 
  Outpost-schemes to groups of beeches. 
  And I’m sure, as here I stand,  55
  That he shines through every land, 
  That he sings in every place 
  Where we’re thinking of his face. 

Robert, there’s a war in France;
Everywhere men bang and blunder,  60
Sweat and swear and worship Chance, 
Creep and blink through cannon thunder. 
Rifles crack and bullets flick, 
Sing and hum like hornet-swarms. 
Bones are smashed and buried quick.  65
  Yet, through stunning battle storms, 
  All the while I watch the spark 
  Lit to guide me; for I know 
  Dreams will triumph, though the dark 
  Scowls above me where I go.  70
You can hear me; you can mingle 
Radiant folly with my jingle. 
War’s a joke for me and you 
While we know such dreams are true!

S.S. Flixécourt. May 1916.



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