The Soldiers at Lauro

Spike Milligan

Young are our dead
Like babies they lie
The wombs they blest once
Not healed dry
And yet - too soon
Into each space
A cold earth falls
On colder face.
Quite still they lie
These fresh-cut reeds
Clutched in earth
Like winter seeds
But they will not bloom
When called by spring
To burst with leaf
And blossoming
They sleep on
In silent dust
As crosses rot
And helmets rust.

Editor's note: Spike Milligan, better known as a humourist, served as a bombardier in the Royal Artillery. This, his first serious poem, was written after burying the dead following a direct hit on his battery that left only two survivors.

The Voice of War -- Michael Joseph Ltd (1995)