Letter to S.S. from Mametz Wood

Robert Graves

I never dreamed we'd meet that day

In our old haunts down Fricourt way,

Plotting such marvellous journeys there

For golden-houred 'Après-la-guerre.'

Well, when it's over, first we'll meet

At Gweithdy Bach, my country seat

In Wales, a curious little shop

With two rooms and a roof on top,

A sort of Morlancourt-ish billet

That never needs a crowd to fill it.

But oh, the country round about!

The sort of view that makes you shout

For want of any better way

Of praising God: there's a blue bay

Shining in front, and on the right

Snowdon and Hebog capped with white,

And lots of other mountain peaks

That you could wonder at for weeks,

With jag and spur and hump and cleft.

There's a grey castle on the left,

And back in the high hinterland

You'll see the grave of Shawn Knarlbrand

Who slew the savage Buffaloon

By the Nant-col one night in June,

And won his surname from the horn

Of this prodigious unicorn.

Beyond, where the two Rhinogs tower,

Rhinog Fach and Rhinog Fawr,

Close there after a four years' chase

From Thessaly and the woods of Thrace,

The beaten Dog-cat stood at bay

And growled and fought and passed away.

You'll see where mountain conies grapple

With prayer and creed in their rock chapel

Which three young children once built for them;

They call it Saoar Bethlehem.

You'll see where in old Roman days,

Before Revivals changed our ways,

The Virgin 'scaped the Devil's grab,

Printing her foot on a stone slab

With five clear toe-marks; and you'll find

The fiendish thumb-print close behind.

You'll see where Math, Mathonwy's son,

Spoke with the wizard Gwydion

And bade him for South Wales set out

To steal that creature with the snout,

That new-discovered grunting beast

Divinely flavoured for the feast.

No traveller yet has hit upon

A wilder land than Meirion,

For desolate hills and tumbling stones,

Bogland and melody and old bones.

Fairies and ghosts are here galore,

And poetry most splendid, more

Than can be written with the pen

Or understood by common men.


In Gweithdy Bach we'll rest a while,

We'll dress our wounds and learn to smile

With easier lips; we'll stretch our legs,

And live on bilberry tart and eggs,

And store up solar energy,

Basking in sunshine by the sea,

Until we feel a match once more

For anything but another war.

So then we'll kiss our families,

And sail away across the seas

(The God of Song protecting us)

To the great hills of Caucasus.

Robert will learn the local bat F

or billeting and things like that,

If Siegfried learns the piccolo

To charm the people as we go.

The simple peasants clad in furs

Will greet the foreign officers

With open arms, and ere they pass

Will make them tuneful with Kavasse.

In old Bagdad we'll call a halt

At the Sashuns' ancestral vault;

We'll catch the Persian rose-flowers' scent,

And understand what Omar meant.

Bitlis and Mush will know our faces,

Tiflis and Tomsk, and all such places.

Perhaps eventually we'll get

Among the Tartars of Thibet,

Hobnobbing with the Chungs and Mings,

And doing wild, tremendous things

In free adventure, quest and fight,

And God! what poetry we'll write!