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Break of Day

Written by: Siegfried Sassoon | Biography
 | Quotes (7) |
 There seemed a smell of autumn in the air 
At the bleak end of night; he shivered there 
In a dank, musty dug-out where he lay, 
Legs wrapped in sand-bags,—lumps of chalk and clay 
Spattering his face. Dry-mouthed, he thought, ‘To-day
We start the damned attack; and, Lord knows why, 
Zero’s at nine; how bloody if I’m done in 
Under the freedom of that morning sky!’ 
And then he coughed and dozed, cursing the din. 

Was it the ghost of autumn in that smell
Of underground, or God’s blank heart grown kind, 
That sent a happy dream to him in hell?— 
Where men are crushed like clods, and crawl to find 
Some crater for their wretchedness; who lie 
In outcast immolation, doomed to die
Far from clean things or any hope of cheer, 
Cowed anger in their eyes, till darkness brims 
And roars into their heads, and they can hear 
Old childish talk, and tags of foolish hymns. 

He sniffs the chilly air; (his dreaming starts),
He’s riding in a dusty Sussex lane 
In quiet September; slowly night departs; 
And he’s a living soul, absolved from pain. 
Beyond the brambled fences where he goes 
Are glimmering fields with harvest piled in sheaves,
And tree-tops dark against the stars grown pale; 
Then, clear and shrill, a distant farm-cock crows; 
And there’s a wall of mist along the vale 
Where willows shake their watery-sounding leaves, 
He gazes on it all, and scarce believes
That earth is telling its old peaceful tale; 
He thanks the blessed world that he was born... 
Then, far away, a lonely note of the horn. 

They’re drawing the Big Wood! Unlatch the gate, 
And set Golumpus going on the grass;
He knows the corner where it’s best to wait 
And hear the crashing woodland chorus pass; 
The corner where old foxes make their track 
To the Long Spinney; that’s the place to be. 
The bracken shakes below an ivied tree,
And then a cub looks out; and ‘Tally-o-back!’ 
He bawls, and swings his thong with volleying crack,— 
All the clean thrill of autumn in his blood, 
And hunting surging through him like a flood 
In joyous welcome from the untroubled past;
While the war drifts away, forgotten at last. 

Now a red, sleepy sun above the rim 
Of twilight stares along the quiet weald, 
And the kind, simple country shines revealed 
In solitudes of peace, no longer dim.
The old horse lifts his face and thanks the light, 
Then stretches down his head to crop the green. 
All things that he has loved are in his sight; 
The places where his happiness has been 
Are in his eyes, his heart, and they are good.

. . . . 
Hark! there’s the horn: they’re drawing the Big Wood.



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