Sorley MacLean joined the British Army in 1940. Between December 1941 and March 1943 he served in the North Africa campaign of World War Two.
MacLean was wounded three times during active service. In November 1942 he was badly injured by a land mine and spent the next nine months recovering in hospital.
In An Autumn Day Maclean reflects on the reality of that war from his personal experience.
The poem could be taken to express the random and futile nature of war and to consider death and the fragility of life.
As with many of MacLean’s works, it is concerned with time - in this case the course of a single day. This particular day was the last for six of his companions in war. MacLean was with them but survived. Meanwhile the world, time and the universe carry on regardless.