(Dante, Inferno, canto I)
In the middle of our march, in thick rain
A halt was called; the proper path
Was missing - we'd have to backtrack again
Through the thick undergrowth
In this dark? Sheer suicide, someone said.
But it'd been done before. So we set forth
File formation, two rows, staggered, three-a-side
Stumbled through trees, dogged as the rainwater
That found its way down, around, through, under, inside
Everywhere, the stench of toil, bruising halter
Of hard knocks, the jig and jangling
Futile water canteen at the kidneys. The patter
Of sky sap and tree spit, mingling
With the mud-caked wax of our boots
Slated our progress, sidling
On greased ground , stiff tree roots
Caltrop twigs, the plosive mine
Of a stark stump, sudden slope, mud-suck in cahoots
With the other side, strangling vine
Played enemy tentacle with us, dragging us down
Into the Discipline
Of Twilight - no naked light, men. We were on our own.
How had we come to this place
The chill and night steeping into bone?
Thank the brass it was level ground still,
we muttered, listing in the dark's embrace.
And then we saw the hill.