It is 1914. Maurice Baring writes

of a tremendous moment at Maubeuge,

seeing the arriving British troops

come swinging over a steep hill singing

It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary

 

and how the villagers soon line the street,

showering the troops with flowers and fruit.

They look so young, so invincibly cheerful

that he slips into a shop to hide his tears,

thinking of the undreamt of horror to come.

 

I, worming into the space he’s left behind,

am holding my wheezy breath in wonder,

little and spindly and madly waving,

until you are out of sight, Grandfather.

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