A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Counting Rhyme

The boys went west, the boys went east,

To grace the board of death’s great feast;

Some went east, and some went west,

And none could say which one was best

     So many hands laid on the breast,

     So many heads laid down to rest.


Of our own laddies, George went first

     he died in a brief machine-gun burst

in Africa in forty-two

     and ever his death I’ll rue, I’ll rue,

               ever his death I’ll rue.


When Nelson went to join, they laughed

     and said they were not that short-staffed;

The leg near killed him that day on the hill

     now kept him home against his will.


He cursed the leg that saved his life,

He cursed a world that seemed all strife

The girl would be his wife he cursed

And that wound surely bled the worst

               That surely bled the worst.


Davison was third to go

     little to me, I thought it so;

Then home he came without his leg

And stumbled about on his wooden peg

     And made sad jokes of how he’d beg

               He joked, that he’d not beg.


This cup of sorrow has no end;

I drink it dry, it’s full again

I drain it down to the bitter dregs,

Then dream of men who have no legs

And tears refill it to the brim,

     and my lips are clamped to the rim, to the rim,

               my lips are clamped to the rim.

So when Marchenkoff marched to war

     I found that I could cry no more,

no more to cry, no more to mourn,

Oh, why had we any of us been born

               for what had we been born?

And when he came not home again,

     There were no tears, there was no pain,

There was no rain to quench this drought

     there was no voice in me to shout

No voice to shout, no tears to cry,

Nor yet the will to hope to die.

But why had I ever sought to live

     why had I ever thought to love

when this is what the world will serve

Oh what must I have been thinking of,

     this death my heart deserve

This is the way we count our dead:

Piece by heart by hand by head

Body by body and boy by boy

This is the way we count our joy

     This is the death of joy.

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