Prose & Poetry - The Muse in Arms - Babel

"Babel" by Osbert Sitwell 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 fifteen poems featured within the Battle Pieces section of the collection.

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

by Osbert Sitwell

Therefore is the name of it called Babel

And still we stood and stared far down
Into that ember-glowing town
Which every shaft and shock of fate
Had shorn into its base.  Too late
Came carelessly Serenity.

Now torn and broken houses gaze
On the rat-infested maze
That once sent up rose-silver haze
To mingle through eternity.

The outlines, once so strongly wrought,
Of city walls, are now a thought
Or jest unto the dead who fought...
Foundation for futurity.

The shimmering sands where once there played
Children with painted pail and spade
Are drearly desolate, - afraid
To meet Night's dark humanity,

Whose silver cool remakes the dead,
And lays no blame on any head
For all the havoc, fire, and lead,
That fell upon us suddenly.

When all we came to know as good
Gave ways to Evil's fiery flood,
And monstrous myths of iron and blood
Seem to obscure God's clarity.

Deep sunk in sin, this tragic star
Sinks deeper still, and wages war
Against itself; strewn all the seas
With victims of a world disease.
- And we are left to drink the lees
Of Babel's direful prophecy.

A Runner was a soldier who carried messages by hand.

- Did you know?