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The Sentry

We'd found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,

And gave us hell, for shell on frantic

Hammered on top, but never quite burst through.

Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime,

Kept slush waist-high and rising hour by hour,

And choked the steps too thick with clay to climb.

What murk of air remained stank old, and

With fumes of whizz-bangs, and the smell of

Who'd lived there years, and left their curse in the den,

If not their corpses…There we herded from the

Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last,

Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles,

And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came

And sploshing in the flood, deluging muck -The sentry's body; then his rifle,

Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.

We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined'O sir, my eyes - I'm blind, - I'm blind,

I'm blind!'Coaxing,

I held a flame against his

And said if he could see the least blurred

He was not blind; in time he'd get all right.'I can't' he sobbed.

Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids',

Watch my dreams still; but I forgot him

In posting Next for duty, and sending a

To beg a stretcher somewhere, and flound'ring

To other posts under the shrieking air.

Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,

And one who would have drowned himself for good, -I try not to remember these things now.

Let dread hark back for one word only:

Half-listening to that sentry's moans and jumps,

And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,

Renewed most horribly whenever

Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath, -Through the dense din,

I say, we heard him shout'I see your lights!' But ours had long died out.

Owen draws upon his own experiences in writing this poem.

This is an extract from a letter of his to his mother about eighteen months before the poem was writen."In the Platoon on my left the sentries over the dug-out were blown to nothing.

One of these poor fellows was my first servant whom I rejected.

If I had kept him he would have lived, for servants don't do Sentry Duty.

I kept my own sentries half way down the stairs during the more terrific bombardment.

In spite of this one lad was blown down and,

I am afraid, blinded."

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Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, MC (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918) was an English poet and soldier. He was one of the leading poets of the First W…

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