Rouen by May Wedderburn Cannan (1883-1993)
Early morning over Rouen, hopeful, high, courageous morning, And the laughter of adventure and the steepness of the stair, And the dawn across the river, and the wind across the bridges, And the empty littered station, and the tired people there.
Can you recall those mornings and the hurry of awakening,
And the long-forgotten wonder if we should miss the way,
And the unfamiliar faces, and the coming of provisions,
And the freshness and the glory of the labour of the day.
Hot noontide over Rouen, and the sun upon the city,
Sun and dust unceasing, and the glare of cloudless skies,
And the voices of the Indians and the endless stream of soldiers, And the clicking of the tatties, and the buzzing of the flies.
Can you recall those noontides and the reek of steam and coffee, Heavy-laden nontides with the evening’s peace to win,
And the little piles of Woodbines, and the sticky soda bottles, And the crushes in the “Parlour”, and the letters coming in?
Quiet night-time over Rouen, and the station full of soldiers, All the youth and pride of England from the ends of all the earth; And the rifles piled together, and the creaking of the sword-belts, And the faces bent above them, and the gay, heart-breaking mirth.
Can I forget the passage from the cool white-bedded Aid Post Past the long sun-blistered coaches of the khaki Red Cross train To the truck train full of wounded, and the weariness and laughter And “Good-bye, and thank you, Sister”, and the empty yards again?
Can you recall the parcels that we made them for the railroad, Crammed and bulging parcels held together by their string,
And the voices of the sargeants who called the Drafts together, And the agony and splendour when they stood to save the King?
Can you forget their passing, the cheering and the waving,
The little group of people at the doorway of the shed,
The sudden awful silence when the last train swung...
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