Pre June-1916 version

The version below shows Rosenberg's first attempt at the poem. Differences between this and the printed version are indicated in bold. The poem was altered in June 1916 in preparation for its publication in Poetry.


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,
(And God knows what antipathies)
Now you have touched this English hand (10)
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes, (15)
Less chanced than you for life,
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 (20)
At the boom, the hiss, the swiftness,
The irrevocable earth buffet
A shell's haphazard fury.
What rootless poppies dropping?

But mine in my ear is safe, (25)
Just a little white with the dust.

- Isaac Rosenberg


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