Bottomley Variant

Gordon Bottomley (1874-1948) was on of the noted literary luminaries at the turn of the century. Although his work is not highly rated nowadays, it was included in Sir Edward Marsh's influential Georgian Poetry (1912). Bottomley took a keen interest in Rosenberg's work and the text below (variants indicated in bold) relate to a transcript (no date) of the poem once in his possession.

Break of Day in the Trenches


The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy (5)
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German (10)
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems, odd thing, you grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life, (15)
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame (20)
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear are safe, (25)
Just a little white with the dust.

- Isaac Rosenberg


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