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Beings have molten forms and lives together.

THE sunshine cannot make the barracks glad.
Its seeming happiness is real pain;
The building faces to the East; anigh
Its girdle, forests, fields, and gardens lie;
Then the horizon furbished by the dawn.


The whitewashed parget walls seem to receive
Only the purest rays that light contains.
The red tiles give the roof a youthful look,
The sanded court is opened like a flower.


And yet the handsome building is in pain.


The clock has just struck eight. This is the hour
When, in the mighty cities far away,
A rustling of glad bodies fills the morn,
Of men that from the girdle inwards crowd,
Scattered no more by isolating sleep.
A fluid multitude swells streets like veins,
And enters into offices and works.


Shop-windows glass the haste of passers-by;
The omnibuses grate, the chimneys smoke;
Men are connected by chaotic rhythms,
Keen groups are born, and swarm, and are transformed.
Awakened muscles willingly are strong,
Life pours as from a bent, full bottle's neck.


The barracks suffer, wishing back the night.
The soldiers fain would sleep into the dawn,
To be themselves still longer in the dark,
Nestling their liberty in crinkled sheets.


The clarion's panting cries compel the barracks
Once more to don its single, dolorous soul.
Giving to arms no time to stretch themselves,
To hearts no time to glide out of their dreams,
The barracks sets its forces galloping,
And whips at sluggish flanks that hate the lash.
Rest, silence, and the friendship of the dark,
Are with a single impulse thrust outside,
for these impurities would weigh down limbs
Which may not have, until the day is done,
One nerve inactive nor one muscle lax.
The barracks hurries, but the hours are sacks
Too narrow, from too supple leather cut
To hold the heap of movements and of acts
With which it seeks to stuff them, out of breath.


Behind the walls
The vegetating fields lie pensively.
The plants, sure they have time, by slow degrees
Work out their shape, and in themselves unite
The joy of being spreading like a lake,
The joy of growing flowing like a river.
And every time the barracks gazes thither,
It bustles less and feels it is in pain.


Bent soldiers scrub the wooden floors of rooms;
Their backs will have lumbago, arms the cramps.
One was a farm-hand, and remembers now
The music of the scythe in grass of June.
This fair-haired fellow, panting down the stairs,
Is thinking of a little Town-Hall office
With windows o'er a yellow, dozing square;
He used to sit in a cane-bottomed chair,
With glossy paper round his pen, that threw
Upon the left a fibre of blue shadow.
Mud clots the corridors, for yesterday
Was rainy; those who sweep are wearied out;
Others that on the stairheads squat or stand
Are scraping boots while sweat is on their brows.


The traveller who climbs a wooded hill,
And, with his foot upon the highest stone,
Upon it pedestals his lonely frame,
to see the forest and to breathe its breath,
Resumes, for one grave second, in himself
The sap, the sprouting, and the scent of trees;
And if, in all the underwood, one twig
Rises above its clog and sharply cracks;
If strawberries ripen, sheltered by a bush,
One whiff of odour, and one flake of sound
Lost in the smell and rustling of the trees,
Run to the traveller's wide-opened brain
Wherein collected all the forest thinks.


Thus raised more high than any peak of souls,
With effort freed from the entanglement
Wherein its branching passions cross and toss,
And covered with unconsciousness, this dew
Which dropped above the barracks when it passed
The dark, dense flesh that does not know itself,
Already vast but undecided still,
The conscience of the barracks,
From hearts dissimulated among things
Receives the feeble breath their essence scents,
And bids the little greifs sent up by men
Be seated in a corner of its grief,
That they may say in two words what they are,
And what complaints they bear.


This conscience probes the tender epidermis,
Yea, and the final folds of human matter,
Even as a hand that warms and fills a glove.
And, timidly, in places, sees the chiefs
Like scattered seeds of lead within itself.


And then it hears no longer little griefs.
A great wind drowns their wearisome falsetto;
The ardent sex of men begins to cry;
Desire of males in cage calls out for females;
The soldiers sing, roar, jostle, violate
The air. Their arms seek softer arms to knead.
Furious at having nothing to embrace
Save other stiffened arms that do not yield,
Furious at never finding anywhere
The soft white bodies that are needed for
The barracks to be soothed and have its flesh
In couples equilibrated, they kindle
A fire of frenzied gestures, and their kisses,
Waste cartridges cast in the flame, explode.


And now a locomotive far away
Buries a whistle in the womb of space.
It is rebellion's signal; the clear order
The strength of trains darts unto men's, that they
May break the threads which make them gravitate
Round the same motionless and hated centre,
And from the turning sling escape, and pierce
Their duty like the paper in a hoop,
And the vast soaring rolled in them unfold,
And go away,
And o'er the horizon find their own horizon.


Fain were the barracks to dissolve and die.
There is a breath glides through the soldiers' bodies,
Moving, disjoining, elevating them.
The enormous block seems porous. All its lives
From one another's hold tear to depart.
It was a serried fleet of sailing-ships;
But the wind whips them and the masts have cracked,
The ships are scattered broad-cast on the sea.


O to set out! The soldiers stamp to go.
Their hope, tiptoe with expectation, tries
To see beforehand the miraculous hour
When all compulsion shall be reaped like hay.
And rude hands weigh the future, feel the months,
And count the days. And on partitions they
In trembling numbers carve how many more.


By all its men the barracks fain would die.


O this were death delicious as pure water,
If one could be dissolved, and pulverised,
And hurled in ruins by self-hate, without
One atom weeping the dead unity,
And not one being clinging to the warmth
Of living in the rhythm of the whole,
Without the unity bewailing its conscience,
O beautiful death!


But not in this way shall the barracks die.
First in its leaded coffin it must live.
The State decrees it must exist, endure!
Feeds it with dole of food from day to day,
And fills it yearly with new sap of youth.

Then, one morning, war.


The barracks, that knows nothing,
Shall nothing know. It will be told
To glide out of its walls,
To march, to follow a road,
To get inside a black train.


And later, not much later,
Not knowing where the carriages
Have taken it to;
Knowing nothing of all, except
That it must kill;
Lying flat on its belly,
Leaping like a grasshopper,
Wishing to live now with a frenzied wish,
In mud, and smoke, and din,
Bleeding, raging, thinned,
It will go and will be killed
By canons.

And this presentiment makes weapons shine;
It spreads a gloss of phosphorus over them;
The muskets reared in line shine with it so
The soldiers have not for them that kind look
With which you soothe the back of things familiar,
But cast them glances grating on the steel.
The barracks sees that it is filled choke-full
Of muskets, bayonets, and cartridges.


There are erected muskets in the racks,
And in the cellars and the garrets too.
All this swarms germinating in the barracks;
This is the seed! The barracks knows her sex.
She is prolific. And she carries, like
A heavy ovary which throbs and swells,
Millions of future deaths within her womb.


The trains may whistle. What if she forget!
She has her flesh and her fatality.
Fated she is to kill and to be killed.