by Ivor Gurney
“Suddenly into the still air burst hudding
And thudding, and cold fear possessed me all,
On the grey slopes there, where winter in sullen brooding
Hung between height and depth of the ugly fall
Of Heaven to earth; and the thudding was illness’ own.
But still a hope I kept that were we there going over,
I, in the line, I should not fail, but take recover
From others’ courage, and not as coward be known.
No flame we saw, the noise and the dread alone
Was battle to us; men were enduring there such
And such things, in wire tangled, to shatters blown.
Courage kept, but ready to vanish at first touch.
Fear, but just held. Poets were luckier once
In the hot fray swallowed and some magnificence.”
It’s 99 years since the first day on the Somme. Surrey Libraries has a number of World War I poetry collections.