The Tunnel

David Rowbotham

Lock the window on the gales and rain.
Bolt the door on the talking parlour.
Blacken the light, and smother the brain
in pillows gulfs away from valour.

Men may not suffer always to be brave.
The odorous injury of fear
shall sometime bleed less tumult to the soul
than the crying voice of courage in the ear.

Give way, then. Fall in the spiralling tunnel
under the net of nerves. Shout,
shout if you must with lips of flannel,
and strike. With knotted fists strike out.

But lean into the descent and feel
how deepening, how soft the hold
men bend and beat against as hell,
as humiliating fire or cold.

Give way; and, when everything is said,
yielding yourself those ways
is valour more than grinning at dread,
and smaller grief than someone’s worthless praise.