This poem was written by Pte. Frank Walker just after the battle of the Somme 100 years ago in 1916 and was published in From a Stretcher Handle: The World War I Journal & Poems of Pte. Frank Walker.
The book is a first-person narrative centred around the life and times of Prince Edward Islander Frank Walker (1893-1977), during his service with the Canadian Field Ambulance, Canadian Medical Corps, from its inception in 1914 until 1919, after the Great War had come to a close.
With Desolation and the Stars
I lonely vigil keep,
Over the garner'd fields of Mars,
Watching the dead men sleep —
Huddled together, so silent there.
With bloodless faces and clotted hair,
Wrapped in their long, long sleep!
By uptorn trees and crater rims
Along the Ridge they lie,
Sprawled in the mud, with out-spread limbs,
Wide staring at the sky.
Why to the sky do they always stare,
Questioning heaven in dumb despair?
Why don't they moan, or sigh?
Why do I rave, ‘neath the callous stars,
At their upturned faces white?
I, surely I, with my crimson scars
Slumber with them this night!
Death, with shadowy finger bare,
Beckons me on to — I know not where;
But, huddled together, and freed from care
We'll watch till the dawn of Light.
From the Somme,