“Conscripts,” Siegfried Sassoon

Conscripts

Fall in, that awkward squad, and strike no more
Attractive attitudes! Dress by the right!
The luminous rich colours that you wore
Have changed to hueless khaki in the night.
Magic? What’s magic got to do with you?
There’s no such thing! Blood’s red, and skies are blue.’

They gasped and sweated, marching up and down.
I drilled them till they cursed my raucous shout.
Love chucked his lute away and dropped his crown.
Rhyme got sore heels and wanted to fall out.
‘Left, right! Press on your butts!’ They looked at me
Reproachful; how I longed to set them free!

I gave them lectures on Defence, Attack;
They fidgeted and shuffled, yawned and sighed,
And boggled at my questions. Joy was slack,
And Wisdom gnawed his fingers, gloomy-eyed.
Young Fancy–how I loved him all the while–
Stared at his note-book with a rueful smile.

Their training done, I shipped them all to France,
Where most of those I’d loved too well got killed.
Rapture and pale Enchantment and Romance,
And many a sickly, slender lord who’d filled
My soul long since with lutanies of sin,
Went home, because they couldn’t stand the din.

But the kind, common ones that I despised
(Hardly a man of them I’d count as friend),
What stubborn-hearted virtues they disguised!
They stood and played the hero to the end,
Won gold and silver medals bright with bars,
And marched resplendent home with crowns and stars.

–Siegfried Sassoon, The Old Huntsman and Other Poems, 1918

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. Her blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and occasional author interviews.
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