Tempt Me No More

Tempt me no more; for I

Have known the lightning's hour,

The poet's inward pride,

The certainty of power.

Bayonets are closing round.

I shrink; yet I must wring

A living from despair

And out of steel a song.

Though song, though breath be short,

I'll share not the disgrace

Of those that ran away

Or never left the base.

Comrades, my tongue can speak

No comfortable words,

Calls to a forlorn hope,

Gives work and not rewards.

Oh keep the sickle sharp

And follow still the plough:

Others may reap, though some

See not the winter through.

Father, who endest all,

Pity our broken sleep;

For we lie down with tears

And waken but to weep.

And if our blood alone

Will melt this iron earth,

Take it. It is well spent

Easing a saviour's birth


from Collected Poems (Jonathan Cape, 1970), used by permission of PFD on behalf of the Estate of C Day Lewis. Recordings used by permission of the BBC

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