Letter to S.S. from Mametz Wood

I never dreamed we’d meet that day
In our old haunts down Fricourt way,
Plotting such marvellous journeys there
For jolly old “Après-la-guerre.”

Well, when it’s over, first we’ll meet
At Gweithdy Bach, my country seat
In Wales, a curious little shop
With two rooms and a roof on top,
A sort of Morlancourt-ish billet
That never needs a crowd to fill it.
But oh, the country round about!
The sort of view that makes you shout
For want of any better way
Of praising God: there’s a blue bay
Shining in front, and on the right
Snowden and Hebog capped with white,
And lots of other jolly peaks
That you could wonder at for weeks,
With jag and spur and hump and cleft.
There’s a grey castle on the left,
And back in the high Hinterland
You’ll see the grave of Shawn Knarlbrand,
Who slew the savage Buffaloon
By the Nant-col one night in June,
And won his surname from the horn
Of this prodigious unicorn.
Beyond, where the two Rhinogs tower,
Rhinog Fach and Rhinog Fawr,
Close there after a four years’ chase
From Thessaly and the woods of Thrace,
The beaten Dog-cat stood at bay
And growled and fought and passed away.
You’ll see where mountain conies grapple
With prayer and creed in their rock chapel
Which Ben and Claire once built for them;
They call it Söar Bethlehem.
You’ll see where in old Roman days,
Before Revivals changed our ways,
The Virgin ’scaped the Devil’s grab,
Printing her foot on a stone slab
With five clear toe-marks; and you’ll find
The fiendish thumbprint close behind.
You’ll see where Math, Mathonwy’s son,
Spoke with the wizard Gwydion
And bad him from South Wales set out
To steal that creature with the snout,
That new-discovered grunting beast
Divinely flavoured for the feast.
No traveller yet has hit upon
A wilder land than Meirion,
For desolate hills and tumbling stones,
Bogland and melody and old bones.
Fairies and ghosts are here galore,
And poetry most splendid, more
Than can be written with the pen
Or understood by common men.

In Gweithdy Bach we’ll rest awhile,
We’ll dress our wounds and learn to smile
With easier lips; we’ll stretch our legs,
And live on bilberry tart and eggs,
And store up solar energy,
Basking in sunshine by the sea,
Until we feel a match once more
For anything but another war.

So then we’ll kiss our families,
And sail across the seas
(The God of Song protecting us)
To the great hills of Caucasus.
Robert will learn the local bat
For billeting and things like that,
If Siegfried learns the piccolo
To charm the people as we go.

The jolly peasants clad in furs
Will greet the Welch-ski officers
With open arms, and ere we pass
Will make us vocal with Kavasse.
In old Bagdad we’ll call a halt
At the Sâshuns’ ancestral vault;
We’ll catch the Persian rose-flowers’ scent,
And understand what Omar meant.
Bitlis and Mush will know our faces,
Tiflis and Tomsk, and all such places.
Perhaps eventually we’ll get
Among the Tartars of Thibet.
Hobnobbing with the Chungs and Mings,
And doing wild, tremendous things
In free adventure, quest and fight,
And God! what poetry we’ll write!

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Robert Graves

Robert von Ranke Graves was an English poet, scholar/translator/writer of antiquity specializing in Classical Greece and Rome, novelist and soldier in World War One. more…

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"Letter to S.S. from Mametz Wood" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 23 May 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/31141/letter-to-s.s.-from-mametz-wood>.

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