Three weeks gone and the combatants gone
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.
The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day, he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a demon.
Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
in a copybook gothic script.
We see him almost with content,
abased, and seeming to have paid
and mocked at by his own equipment
that’s hard and good when he’s decayed.
But she would weep to see today
how on his skin the swart flies move;
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.
For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who had the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt.
[vergissmeinnicht = forget me not]
perhaps the best-known poem of WWII [John Lucas, Second World War Poetry in English]
one of the greates lyrics of its century [Tim Kendall, War Poetry blog spot]
There is an interesting thread of discussion on this poem on Tim Kendall’s Blog spot http://war-poets.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/keith-douglas-vergissmeinnicht.html