|Verdun, 1917 by Felix Vallotton|
Hell cannot be as bad as this.
I dwell amongst; exist amidst
a stinking mound of fallen men
who lie dead-eyed
in bubbling broth of shit and piss.
Earth moves as worms writhe
and feast on human flesh,
rats gnaw deep exposing bones
and in this mess
the wounded soldier groans
and screams in unremitting pain
and longs for sweet release of death,
long lost his dream of returning home.
Half-mad, I suck (the breath) in deep,
let it cling to chest lest it be the last I draw.
Sometimes when morning breaks like this,
illuminates lights up the carnage spread before
or in the black of night
when imagination plays its cruellest tricks,
I think death much more preferable to this.
What price this place in human life is made?
How many soldiers’ hearts must spill their blood,
lay still upon its soil its stinking mud
until its final cost is paid?
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the catalyst for what was to become The First World War, the first mindless, global war brought about by the insanity of the treaty alliance system, the war to end all wars…
The Battle of Verdun was the longest and one of the major battles fought on the Western Front and according to modern estimations the casualty count is in the region of 976,000.
The poem is composed of eye-witness accounts of life in the trenches found here and at other sites dedicated to The Battle of Verdun.