I see you now, eighteen,
A blond curl of smile, bird’s eggs eyes –
No wrong in you except the one motorbike spin
At midnight, when Peter and you came home next morning
Feet awkward and too big, your hands confused.
Now you’re going to war;
You stand on the lawn in your uniform
With the cherry trees laughing behind you,
And you don’t look a man at all
But a boy in a beautiful play.
What will they do to you there?
What things will you see done on wires
That will haunt you for ever?
What things will you do for your country
You never knew were in your hands?
Breathe this blue wind a last time, boy,
Before you leave, and put this spring day
Deep in the safety of your heart
Like a photograph, to fray and tatter, precious –
For you will not come back again this way.
Translations of this Poem
Translator: Christine De Luca
I see dee noo, eichteen,
A blond curl o smile, bird’s egg een –
Nae ill athin dee but da wan motorbike tirl
At midnicht, when dee an Peter cam hame neist moarnin
Feet clushit, dy haands in a reffel.
Noo du’s gyaain ta da war;
Du staands apö da green i dy uniform
Wi da cherry trees gaffin ahint dee,
An du dusna luik lik a man ava
But a bairn in a lichtsome play.
What will dey dö ta dee dere?
What’ll du see dön apö wires
At’ll gluff dee fur ivver?
What’ll du dö fur dy country
At du nivver kent wis ithin dy haands?
Breathe dis blue wind a hidmist time, boy,
Afore du gengs, an pit dis voar day
Deep i da inner hoose o dy haert
Ta wear awa lik a photo du hes a keepin on –
Fur du’ll no come back dis wye again.