The Firing Party


Original Text: 
Caudwell, Christopher. Collected Poems 1925-1936. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1986: 50.
1I shall not see them sweating at that task:
2It was too much of any man to ask;
3The death that gets you certain, soon or late;
4Meanwhile the mess, the mud, the noise, the hate.
5But I shall see through bandages the white
6Cheeks round the gun-barrel, and then night.
7Was it cowardice from fight's short shock to creep
8Into a nightmare of eternal sleep;
9My only fault that I misjudged my spirit
10And volunteered, and now disgrace inherit?
11Still will bombardment fill the noisy sky,
12Still will old comrades fight and wonder why;
13But soon they'll join me .- those that I out-raced,
14Reaching the goal too early, and disgraced.
15The flower of sleep will blow on either grave
16And wheat frequent the coward as the brave,
17Disliking only where the trenches ploughed
18And ordnance delved, the fiery liquids flowed,
19Where war's red feet his wicked winepress trod,
20An outrage on the peaceful hopes of God.
Publication Notes: 
Early Poems (1924-1927)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh
RPO Edition: