An Incident At Cambrai


In a by–street, blocked with rubble
And any–way–tumbled stones,
Between the upstanding house–fronts’
Naked and scorched bones,

Chinese workmen were clearing
The ruins, dusty and arid.
Dust whitened the motley coats,
Where each his burden carried.

Silent they glided, all
Save one, who passed me by
With berry–brown high–boned cheeks
And strange Eastern eye.

And he sang in his outland tongue
Among those ruins drear
A high, sad, half–choked ditty
That no one heeded to hear.

Was it love, was it grief, that made
For long–dead lips that song?
The desolation of Han
Or the Never–Ending Wrong?

The Rising Sun and the Setting,
They have seen this all as a scroll
Blood–smeared, that the endless years
For the fame of men unroll.

It was come from the ends of the earth
And of Time in his ruin gray,
That song,–the one human sound
In the silence of Cambrai.

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