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Over The Parapet Analysis

Author: Poetry of Robert Service Type: Poetry Views: 153

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Rhymes of a Red Cross ManAll day long when the shells sail overI stand at the sandbags and take my chance;

But at night, at night I'm a reckless rover,And over the parapet gleams Romance.

Romance! Romance! How I've dreamed it, writingDreary old records of money and mart,

Me with my head chuckful of fightingAnd the blood of vikings to thrill my heart.But little I thought that my time was coming,Sudden and splendid, supreme and soon;

And here I am with the bullets hummingAs I crawl and I curse the light of the moon.

Out alone, for adventure thirsting,Out in mysterious No Man's Land;

Prone with the dead when a star-shell, bursting,Flares on the horrors on every hand.There are ruby stars and they drip and wiggle;And the grasses gleam in a light blood-red;

There are emerald stars, and their tails they wriggle,And ghastly they glare on the face of the dead.

But the worst of all are the stars of whiteness,That spill in a pool of pearly flame,

Pretty as gems in their silver brightness,And etching a man for a bullet's aim.Yet oh, it's great to be here with danger,Here in the weird, death-pregnant dark,

In the devil's pasture a stealthy ranger,When the moon is decently hiding. Hark!

What was that? Was it just the shiverOf an eerie wind or a clammy hand?

The rustle of grass, or the passing quiverOf one of the ghosts of No Man's Land?It's only at night when the ghosts awaken,And gibber and whisper horrible things;

For to every foot of this God-forsakenZone of jeopard some horror clings.

Ugh! What was that? It felt like a jelly,That flattish mound in the noisome grass;

You three big rats running free of its belly,Out of my way and let me pass!But if there's horror, there's beauty, wonder;The trench lights gleam and the rockets play.

That flood of magnificent orange yonderIs a battery blazing miles away.

With a rush and a singing a great shell passes;The rifles resentfully bicker and brawl,

And here I crouch in the dew-drenched grasses,And look and listen and love it all.God! What a life! But I must make haste now,Before the shadow of night be spent.

It's little the time there is to waste now,If I'd do the job for which I was sent.

My bombs are right and my clippers ready,And I wriggle out to the chosen place,

When I hear a rustle . . . Steady! . . . Steady!Who am I staring slap in the face?There in the dark I can hear him breathing,A foot away, and as still as death;

And my heart beats hard, and my brain is seething,And I know he's a Hun by the smell of his breath.

Then: "Will you surrender?" I whisper hoarsely,For it's death, swift death to utter a cry.



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