The Death Bed
Siegfried Sassoon, (1886-1967)
  • Awarded the Military Cross for braverty, he was invalided
  • out of the conflict after being wounded on the 18th July 1918
  • Written in 1916

  • He drowsed and was aware of silence heaped
  • Round him, unshaken as the steadfast walls;
  • Aqueous like floating rays of amber light,
  • Soaring and quivering in the wings of sleep.
  • Silence and safety; and his mortal shore
  • Lipped by the inward, moonless waves of death.
  • Someone was holding water to his mouth.
  • He swallowed, unresisting; moaned and dropped
  • Through crimson gloom to darkness; and forgot
  • The opiate throb and ache that was his wound.
  • Water-calm, sliding green above the weir.
  • Water-a sky-lit alley for his boat,
  • Bird-voiced, and bordered with reflected flowers
  • And shaken hues of summer; drifting down,
  • He dipped contented oars, and sighed, and slept.
  • Night, with a gust of wind, was in the ward,
  • Blowing the curtain to a glimmering curve.
  • Night. He was blind; he could not see the stars
  • Glinting among the wraiths of wandering cloud;
  • Queer blots of colour, purple, scarlet, green,
  • Flickered and faded in his drowning eyes.
  • Rain-he could hear it rustling through the dark;
  • Fragrance and passionless music woven as one;
  • Warm rain on drooping roses; pattering showers
  • That soak the woods; not the harsh rain that sweeps
  • Behind the thunder, but a trickling peace,
  • Gently and slowly washing life away.
  • He stirred, shifting his body; then the pain
  • Leapt like a prowling beast, and gripped and tore
  • His groping dreams with grinding claws and fangs.
  • But someone was beside him; soon he lay
  • Shuddering because that evil thing had passed.
  • And death, whod stepped toward him, paused and stared.
  • Light many lamps and gather round his bed.
  • Lend him your eyes, warm blood, and will to live.
  • Speak to him; rouse him; you may save him yet.
  • Hes young; he hated War; how should he die
  • When cruel old campaigners win safe through?
  • But death replied: I choose him. So he went,
  • And there was silence in the summer night;
  • Silence and safety; and the veils of sleep.
  • Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.
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