Prose & Poetry - The Muse in Arms - Escape

"Escape" 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 seventeen poems featured within the Moods and Memories section of the collection.  You can access other poems within the section via the sidebar to the right.

by Robert Graves

(August 6, 1916. Officer previously reported died of wounds, now reported wounded. Graves, Capt. R, Royal Welsh Fusiliers)

...But I was dead, an hour or more:
I woke when I'd already passed the door
That Cerberus guards and half-way down the road
To Lethe, as an old Greek sign-post showed.
Above me, on my stretcher swinging by,
I saw new stars in the sub-terrene sky,
A Cross, a Rose in Bloom, a Cage with Bars,
And a barbed Arrow feathered with fine stars.
I felt the vapours of forgetfulness
Float in my nostrils: Oh, may Heaven bless
Dear Lady Proserpine, who saw me wake
And, stooping over me, for Henna's sake
Cleared my poor buzzing head and sent me back
Breathless, with leaping heart along the track.
After me roared and clattered angry hosts
Of demons, heroes, and policeman-ghosts.
"Life, life! I can't be dead, I won't be dead:
Damned if I'll die for any one," I said...
Cerberus stands and grins above me now,
Wearing three heads, lion and lynx and sow.
"Quick, a revolver! but my Webley's gone,
Stolen... no bombs... no knife... (the crowd swarms on,
Bellows, hurls stones)... not even a honeyed sop...
Nothing... Good Cerberus... Good dog... but stop!
Stay!... a great luminous thought... I do believe
There's still some morphia that I bought on leave."
Then swiftly Cerberus' wide mouths I cram
With Army biscuit smeared with Tickler's jam;
nd Sleep lurks in the luscious plum and apple.
He crunches, swallows, stiffens, seems to grapple
With the all-powerful poppy... then a snore,
A crash; the beast blocks up the corridor
With monstrous hairy carcase, red and dun -
Too late: for I've sped through.

O Life! O Sun!

Stormtroopers comprised specially trained German assault troops used in 1918.

- Did you know?