Mute figures with bowed head
They travel along the road:
Old women, incredibly old
and a hand-cart of chattels.
They do not weep:
their eyes are too raw for tears.
Past them have hastened
processions of retreating Tibetans
baggage-wagons and swift horsemen.
Now they struggle along.
with the rearguard of a broken army.
We shall hold the enemy towards nightfall
and they will move
surely into the dark behind us,
only the creaking cart
disturbing their sorrowful serenity.
Herbert Read (1893 – 1968) was an English art historian, poet and literary critic. During the Great War he served with the Green Howards in France.