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Poetry

HIGH WOOD
by Philip Johnston (1918)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is High Wood,  
Called by the French, Bois des Furneaux,  
The famous spot which in Nineteen-Sixteen,  
July, August and September was the scene  
Of long and bitterly contested strife,  
By reason of its High commanding site.  
Observe the effect of shell-fire in the trees  
Standing and fallen; here is wire; this trench  
For months inhabited, twelve times changed hands;  
(They soon fall in), used later as a grave.  
It has been said on good authority  
That in the fighting for this patch of wood  
Were killed somewhere above eight thousand men,  
Of whom the greater part were buried here,  
This mound on which you stand being....
Madame, please,  
You are requested kindly not to touch  
Or take away the Company's property  
As souvenirs; you'll find we have on sale  
A large variety, all guaranteed.  
As I was saying, all is as it was,  
This is an unknown British officer,  
The tunic having lately rotted off.  
Please follow me - this way .....
the path, sir, please,  
The ground which was secured at great expense  
The Company keeps absolutely untouched,  
And in that dug-out (genuine) we provide  
Refreshments at a reasonable rate.  
You are requested not to leave about  
Paper, or ginger-beer bottles, or orange peel,  
There are waste-paper baskets at the gate.


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Tuesday 14 February 2006