In shadowy formation up they rise,
Dusky raiders with their bat-like wings.
The night is studded with a thousand eyes
And its dim cloak on desolation flings.
The wind through stay and wire moans and whines,
The engines throb with thrilled expectant breath.
Eighty miles to eastward on the lines
They go and carry with them stings of death.
The spirit of Adventure calls ahead,
They leave the earth behind them battle-bound
And rise untrammelled from the war-stained ground,
Grey moving shadows o’er the lonely dead,
Flying unflinching as an arrow flies
Down the uncharted roadway of the skies.
I like to think of you as brown and tall,
As strong and living as you used to be,
In khaki tunic, Sam Brown belt and all,
And standing there and laughing down at me.
Because they tell me, dear, that you are dead,
Because I can no longer see your face,
You have not died, it is not true, instead
You seek adventure in some other place.
That you are round about me, I believe;
I hear you laughing as you used to do,
Yet loving all the things I think of you;
And knowing you are happy, should I grieve?
You follow and are watchful where I go;
How should you leave me, having loved me so?
We walked along the tow-path, you and I,
Beside the sluggish-moving, still canal;
It seemed impossible that you should die;
I think of you the same and always shall.
We thought of many things and spoke of few,
And life lay all uncertainly before,
And now I walk alone and think of you,
And wonder what new kingdoms you explore.
Over the railway line, across the grass,
While up above the golden wings are spread,
Flying, ever flying overhead,
Here still I see your khaki figure pass,
And when I leave the meadow, almost wait
That you should open first the wooden gate.
Reflective Questions: “The Wind on the Downs”
- How is it that a person left behind has difficulty believing when (s)he are told of the death of person who has died in war?
- What does the person in “The Wind on the Downs” thinks about the individual who has died?
- What dreams does the speaker of this poem have? How does she live her dreams?
- How does the speaker feel that the person of whom she speaks thinks and acts towards her?
- Comment on if you think this poem is as real today as it was during the First World War?