a shell burst slick upon the duck-boards


New Member
This is from the poem "Memorial Tablet" by Siegfried Sassoon:

My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duckboards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light

What does "burst slick upon" mean, exactly?

Did the grenade fling mud on the duckboards?
Did the shell burst right in the trench (upon the duckboards)?

Interpretations in regards to the exact manner of the soldier's death on the web seem to shift between him being flung by the explosion of the grenade and him slipping on the boards.
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, it means the shell burst inside the trench, on the duckboards. I think slick is used in the sense of efficient[ly] — the shell landed exactly where it was intended to.


    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    I would interpret it as "slick" meaning "cleverly" i.e. whoever threw the grenade had aimed well / it was a well-placed throw.
    See this WR definition:
    slick 8 adv.
    1. smoothly;
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