Prose & Poetry - The Muse in Arms - The Approach

"The Approach" by Robert Graves First published in London in November 1917 and reprinted in February 1918 The Muse in Arms comprised, in the words of editor E. B. Osborne:

"A collection of war poems, for the most part written in the field of action, by seamen, soldiers, and flying men who are serving, or have served, in the Great War".

Below is one of eight poems featured within the Before Action section of the collection.

You can access other poems within the section via the sidebar to the right.

The Approach
by Robert Nichols

1. In the Grass: Halt by the Wayside

In my tired, helpless body
I feel my sunk heart ache;
But suddenly, loudly
The far, the great guns shake.

Is it sudden terror
Burdens my heart? My hand
Flies to my head. I listen...
And do not understand.

Is death so near, then?
From this blazing light,
Do I plunge suddenly
Into vortex?  Night?

Guns again! the quiet
Shakes at the vengeful voice...
It is terrIble pleasure
I do not fear; I rejoice.

2. On the Way Up

The battery grides and jingles,
Mile succeeds to mile;
Shaking the noonday sunshine,
The guns lunge out a while
And then are still a while.

We amble along the highway;
The reeking, powdery dust
Ascends and cakes our faces,
With a striped, sweaty crust.

Under the still sky's violet
The heat throbs in the air...
The white road's dusty radiance,
Assumes a dark glare.

With a head hot and heavy,
And eyes that cannot rest,
And a black heart burning
In a stifled breast,

I sit in the saddle,
I feel the road unroll,
And keep my senses straightened
Toward to-morrow's goal.

There over unknown meadows,
Which we must reach at last,
Day and night thunders
A black and chilly blast.

Heads forget heaviness,
Hearts forget spleen,
For by that mighty winnowing
Being is blown clean.

Light in the eyes again,
Strength in the hand,
A spirit dares, dies, forgives
And can understand.

And best!  Love comes back again
After grief and shame,
And along the wind of death
Throws a clean flame!

The battery grides and jingles;
Mile succeeds to mile;
Suddenly battering the silence
The guns burst out a while.

I lift my head and smile.

3. Nearer

Nearer and ever nearer....
My body tired but tense
Hovers 'twixt vague pleasure
And tremulous confidence.

Arms to have and to use them,
And a soul to be made
Worthy if not worthy;
If afraid, unafraid!

To endure for a little.
To endure and have done:
Men I love about me,
Over me the sun!

And should at last suddenly
Fly the speeding death:
The four great quarters of heaven
Receive this little breath.

"Lance corporal bacon" was the name used by Anzac soldiers to describe very fatty bacon with a sliver of lean meat running through it.

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Muse in Arms

Before Action