Cross-post from war_poetry
Back to her ruined village home,
Came Antoinette Legru,
With eager steps and shining eyes,
Along the way she knew.
Over the hill and down the road,
The well-loved valley through,
But there, a weird and mournful sight
Broke on her wondering view.
Where red-tiled roof and gardened cot,
Nestled 'mid hill and wode,
Where hall and spire had towered above,
And trees had fringed the road,
A battered mass of broken walls,
And cellars gaping wide,
And trees all broken, scarred and dead,
Appeared on every side.
Upon the rise she saw the church
Where, in her childhood's day,
Her simple piety had taught
To go to Mass and pray.
A shapeless wreck, yet still in death
It tried its lore to tell,
For carven stone, and sacred sign,
Lay scattered where they fell.
And by the village cemetery
Where lay her kin who died,
Were wooden crosses grey and white,
A thousand side by side.
The near-by wood, with winding paths,.
Where, in her happiest hours,
With her young lover by her side,
She gathered fruit and flowers,
Was nothing but a tangled heap
Of wire and stumps and poles,
With trenches dug among the roots
And ugly yawning holes.
And he for three long weary years
A captive with the foe,
Yearning for home, hungry for bread,
With spirit dying slow.
At last she reached her father's home,
A heap of jumbled stones,
And cast-off kit and sandbagged cave,
And dirt and tins and bones.
Mutely she gazed across the ground
Where once she used to play,
The courtyard and the orchard trees
Had vanished all away.
Will nothing give a welcome home
To Antoinette Legru ?
Is there no token of the past,
No hope to grow anew ?
Yes, there beside a broken wall,
Among destruction dread,
A Crimson Rose of days gone by,
Rears up its glorious head.
It speaks of roots too deeply set
For even war to slay,
That raise again as from the dead
The Love of yesterday.
She saw, and, kneeling, kissed the flower,
The beauteous living sign,
'Mid desolation all around,
Of something yet divine.
With dimming eyes and heaving breast
She tried some prayer to say,
Then flung herself upon the ground
And sobbed her grief away. by T.A. Girling
(In the field, 29th August, 1917)Ghosts: Ypres In The Great War