Retreat

Broken, bewildered by the long retreat
Across the stifling leagues of southern plain,
Across the scorching leagues of trampled grain,
Half-stunned, half-blinded, by the trudge of feet
And dusty smother of the August
He dreamt of flowers in an English lane,
Of hedgerow flowers glistening after rain–
All-heal and willow-herb and meadow-sweet.

All-heal and willow-herb and meadow-sweet–
The innocent names kept up a cool refrain–
All-heal and willow-herb and meadow-sweet,
Chiming and tinkling in his aching brain,
Until he babbled like a child again—
“All-heal and willow-herb and meadow-sweet.”

–Wilfrid Wilson Gibson