ROBERT GRAVES'S WAR POEMS (LATER DISCLAIMED)
ARE CONCERNED WITH THE DEATH OF
ALL MYTH AND
RELIGION UNDER THE IMMEDIATE SHOCK
OF HIS EXPERIENCES
IN THE TRENCHES
Graves, 'Dead Cow Farm' (1917)
AN ancient saga tells us how
In the beginning the First Cow
(For nothing living yet had birth
But Elemental Cow on earth)
Began to lick cold stones and mud:
Under her warm tongue flesh and blood
Blossomed, a miracle to believe:
And so was Adam born, and Eve.
Here now is chaos once again,
Primeval mud, cold stones and rain.
Here flesh decays and blood drips red,
And the Cow's dead, the old Cow's dead.
Graves, 'Goliath and David' (For D.
C. T., Killed at Fricourt, March,1916)
YET once an earlier David took
Smooth pebbles from the brook:
Out between the lines he went
To that one-sided tournament,
A shepherd boy who stood out fine
And young to fight a Philistine
Clad all in brazen mail. He swears
That he's killed lions, he's killed bears,
And those that scorn the God of Zion
Shall perish so like bear or lion.
But ... the historian of that fight
Had not the heart to tell it right.
[ ... ]
Loud laughs Goliath, and that laugh
Can scatter chariots like blown chaff
To rout; but David, calm and brave,
Holds his ground, for God will save.
Steel crosses wood, a flash, and oh!
Shame for beauty's overthrow!
(God's eyes are dim, His ears are shut.)
One cruel backhand sabre-cut --
"I'm hit! I'm killed!" young David cries,
Throws blindly forward, chokes ... and
And look, spike-helmeted, grey, grim,
Goliath straddles over him.
Robert Graves, Fairies and Fusiliers, 1917, New York, 1918.