Hope and Despair

A chirpy whistling filled the air,

The melody behind the wide-eyed stares,

Of boys who sought adventure,

And didn’t have a care,

Blissfully ignorant of the truth,

They beamed with hope and with pride,

Fresh-faced and flushed with youth,

Pondering, wide-eyed,

On the truth of the stories they’d been told,

As they marched along the Menin road.


Soft, grey silhouettes were seen ahead,

A column of soldiers coming back from the dead,

Gun smoke and cordite hung in the air,

And through it they saw the dead-eyed stares,

Of men who’d been to oblivion,

And lost themselves there,


Gravestone-grey and gaunt like ghosts,

Their faces etched with horror,

The blasted, the blistered, the blind and the broken,

Those numb just with fear or with cold,

All shuffled past like shattered shadows,

Along the Menin road.


The whistling stopped,

And a sombre hush descended,

Colour drained from rosy cheeks,

As innocence was ended,

These columns of troops,

Breathed the same frigid air,

But they marched in two groups,

Called hope and despair,

Along the Menin road.

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