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Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares(2) we turned our backs And towards our distant rest(3) began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots(4) Of tired, outstripped(5) Five-Nines(6) that dropped behind. Gas!(7) Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets(8) just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime(9) . . . Dim, through the misty panes(10) and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering,(11) choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud(12) Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, My friend, you would not tell with such high zest(13) To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory, The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.(15)
The only thing I have of Jane MacNaughton Is one instant of a dancing-class dance. She was the fastest runner in the seventh grade, My scrapbook says even when boys were beginning To be as big as the girls But I do not have her running in my mind, Though Frances Lane is there, Agnes Fraser, Fat Betty Lou Black in the boys-against-girls Relays we ran at recess: she must have run Like the other girls, with her skirts tucked up So they would be like bloomers, But I cannot tell; that part of her is gone. What I do have is when she came, With the hem of her skirt where it should be For a young lady, into the annual dance Of the dancing class we all hated, and with a light Grave leap, jumped up and touched the end Of one of the paper-ring decorations To see if she could reach it. She could, And reached me now as well, hanging in my mind From a brown chain of brittle paper, thin And muscular, wide-mouthed, eager to prove Whatever it proves when you leap In a new dress, a new womanhood, among the boys Whom you easily left in the dust Of the passionless playground. If I said I saw In the paper where Jane MacNaughton Hill, Mother of four, leapt to her death from a window Of a downtown hotel, and that her body crushed-in The top of a parked taxi, and that I held Without trembling a picture of her lying cradled In that papery steel as though lying in the grass, One shoe idly off, arms folded across her breast, I would not believe myself. I would say The convenient thing, that it was a bad dream Of maturity, to see that eternal process Most obsessively wrong with the world Come out of her light, earth-spurning feet Grown heavy: would say that in the dusty heels Of the playground some boy who did not depend On speed of foot, caught and betrayed her. Jane, stay where you are in my first mind: It was odd in that school, at that dance. I and the other slow-footed yokels sat in corners Cutting rings out of drawing paper Before you leapt in your new dress And touched the end of something I began, Above the couples struggling on the floor, New men and women clutching at each other And prancing foolishly as bears: hold on To that ring I made for you, Jane-- My feet are nailed to the ground By dust I swallowed thirty years ago-- While I examine my hands.