Sunday, 21st July (1918)

A weird ride last night, taking the gun up again.  The nags made heavy work of hauling it across country.

The night was of the heavy melodramatic order, a wild half-moon fighting through thunderous clouds, and lighting by fits the battered village with its mutilated spectre of a church, the uncanny irregularities of this shell-torn ground (as though the earth itself was stricken with some disfiguring disease) and the tenebrous and significant apparition of that wood (Gomecourt) now but a foul jumble of blackened timber, where earlier in the war such fearful fighting took place and countless soldiers lost their lives.  It reminded me, that Wood, of the terrible story of E.A. Poe, about the dead man kept alive by mesmerism – it is dead: the events that gave it grim immortality are dead too; but the war will not let it alone, hourly tampering with the corpse.  The guns bang here and there with forlorn insistence, as though they detested their own metallic echoes and all the mess, stink and ruin they have created.

The presence of men in this Valley of Shadow, this Childe Roland’s dismal desert, this unbuilded City of Dreadful Night, is sinister – Lost Souls?  A voice calls gruffly – is gruffly answered – some one curses something – then silence.  A dim light glowers up from the nether world – one of the Hun’s old dugouts, 30 ft. deep, now used by his foe.  Those spasmodic flares, rockets, and coloured lights from the firing line, are they calls for aid, or signals of salvation?  And the shells that eternally wail, whine, and whistle overhead, out of nowhere into nowhere – solid realities, or the shrieks of expiring fiends?

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