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Fairies and Fusiliers by Robert Graves

FAIRIES AND FUSILIERS

BY

ROBERT GRAVES

1918

TO

THE ROYAL WELCH FUSILIERS

_I have to thank Mr. Harold Monro, of The Poetry Book Shop, for permission to include in this volume certain poems of which he possesses the copyright; also the editor of the "Nation" for a similar courtesy._

R.G.

CONTENTS

TO AN UNGENTLE CRITIC AN OLD TWENTY-THIRD MAN TO LUCASTA ON GOING TO THE WAR--FOR THE FOURTH TIME TWO FUSILIERS TO ROBERT NICHOLS DEAD COW FARM GOLIATH AND DAVID BABYLON MR. PHILOSOPHER THE CRUEL MOON FINLAND A PINCH OF SALT THE CATERPILLAR SORLEY'S WEATHER THE COTTAGE THE LAST POST WHEN I'M KILLED LETTER TO S.S. FROM MAMETZ WOOD A DEAD BOCHE FAUN THE SPOILSPORT THE SHIVERING BEGGAR JONAH JOHN SKELTON I WONDER WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE DROWNED? DOUBLE RED DAISIES CAREERS I'D LOVE TO BE A FAIRY'S CHILD THE NEXT WAR STRONG BEER MARIGOLDS THE LADY VISITOR IN THE PAUPER WARD LOVE AND BLACK MAGIC SMOKE-RINGS A CHILD'S NIGHTMARE ESCAPE THE BOUGH OF NONSENSE NOT DEAD A BOY IN CHURCH CORPORAL STARE THE ASSAULT HEROIC THE POET IN THE NURSERY IN THE WILDERNESS CHERRY-TIME 1915 FREE VERSE

TO AN UNGENTLE CRITIC

_The great sun sinks behind the town Through a red mist of Volnay wine...._ But what's the use of setting down That glorious blaze behind the town? You'll only skip the page, you'll look For newer pictures in this book; You've read of sunsets rich as mine.

_A fresh wind fills the evening air With horrid crying of night birds...._ But what reads new or curious there When cold winds fly across the air? You'll only frown; you'll turn the page, But find no glimpse of your "New Age Of Poetry" in my worn-out words.

Must winds that cut like blades of steel And sunsets swimming in Volnay, The holiest, cruellest pains I feel, Die stillborn, because old men squeal For something new: "Write something new: We've read this poem--that one too, And twelve more like 'em yesterday"?

No, no! my chicken, I shall scrawl Just what I fancy as I strike it, Fairies and Fusiliers, and all Old broken knock-kneed thought will crawl Across my verse in the classic way. And, sir, be careful what you say; There are old-fashioned folk still like it.

AN OLD TWENTY-THIRD MAN

"Is that the Three-and-Twentieth, Strabo mine, Marching below, and we still gulping wine?" From the sad magic of his fragrant cup The red-faced old centurion started up, Cursed, battered on the table. "No," he said, "Not that! The Three-and-Twentieth Legion's dead, Dead in the first year of this damned campaign-- The Legion's dead, dead, and won't rise again. Pity? Rome pities her brave lads that die, But we need pity also, you and I, Whom Gallic spear and Belgian arrow miss, Who live to see the Legion come to this, Unsoldierlike, slovenly, bent on loot, Grumblers, diseased, unskilled to thrust or shoot. O, brown cheek, muscled shoulder, sturdy thigh! Where are they now? God! watch it struggle by, The sullen pack of ragged ugly swine. Is that the Legion, Gracchus? Quick, the wine!" "Strabo," said Gracchus, "you are strange tonight. The Legion is the Legion; it's all right. If these new men are slovenly, in your thinking, God damn it! you'll not better them by drinking. They all try, Strabo; trust their hearts and hands. The Legion is the Legion while Rome stands, And these same men before the autumn's fall Shall bang old Vercingetorix out of Gaul."


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