From War Poems by X.
Garden City, New York
Doubleday, Page & Company
Mounting his stairs of azure and of gold,
The English lark sings in the August weather
For joy which knoweth neither tie nor tether
And is not troubled if the world grows old;
While you, who were as blithesome and as bold,
And held your life lightly as any feather,
Sleep the high sleep that dead men sleep together,
Careless of what is done and what is told.
I know that all England shone before you
When you went down. It made a radiance
Even of the front of death. Oh, woman's son,
You died for England. . . valiant as she that bore you,
And sent you forth with a still countenance,
And broke her heart for England and lives on!
"This morning at dawn I attacked the enemy's second system of defence."---Sir Douglas Haig
These are the fights of Love and Joy and Men
With Fate and Death and the illicit Beast,
For guerdons, of which Glory is the least
And Honour not the highest. The old reign
Of Night shall topple, the old Wrongs be slain:
Fitting it is that you go to the Feast
While ange suns kindle the young-eyed east
And bring the breath of Eden back again.
Oh soldiers' hour! . . . For now the English rose
Flames and is washed with the authentic dew
And through the mist her ancient crimson shows:
I see your shadows on the waking lawn
Like shadows of kings, and all the souls of you
Blazoned and bright and panoplied in the dawn.
He goeth and he returns not. He is dead.
Their house of joy no further brightness shows,
Their loveliness is come unto its close,
Their last touch given, and their last kindness said;
For him no more the vision of her bent head,
For her no more the lily or the rose,
Nor any gladness in this place of woes;
The book is shut, the bitter lesson read.
Yet who shall beat them down? Though the Abhorred
Taketh the groom, and to the bride hath sent
The dagger of anguish with the ice-cold hilt,
Both of them triumph in a strange content--
And out of souls like these will heavens be built
And holy cities peopled for the Lord.
Along the English lanes a budding green,
Upon the English orchards pink and white,
And over them the rapture and delight
Of April sunshine! Fair and fresh and clean,
Washen as if in wells of hyaline
And very wondrous to the pilgrim sight;
A glad, new land of all things soft and bright--
Oh, surely here an angel must have been
And left his blessing! . . . Dead, young son of ours,
Who didst so proudly taste the loving-cup,
Whose blood but now shone like a living rose
Dropped by the Lord upon the Flanders snows,
What country shall they give you to be yours
For this, the England you have given up?
He is gone hence. Weep no weak tears for him:
You gave us freely what you valued most;
It is not loss, for gifts are never lost
Unto the giver. Lo, the star-kept, dim
Limits where battle fades away, and grim
Death halts and hath no power! On that coast
His feet are set among the shining host
Who range with cherubim and seraphim.
A thousand suns are unregarded dust,
A million dawns break and are counted not,
And Beauty riseth up, and she departs
But your fair stripling, dead beside his trust,
Is safely folded in the Heart of Hearts.
The enemy without--and he within!
You meet him on the stairs of your high tower
All simpers. At his nose he hath a flower,
Upon his tongue cheap honey; and his chin
Waggeth for ever. If we lose or win--
Please don't talk war! The witty luncheon hour,
The joyous week-end! Good souls, who could sour
So blithe a spirit, or prick so sleek a skin?
Cheerfullest wight! It is his constant whim
To beam on Fate. All that he asks is love,
A salad, a glass of wine, music that charms,
A book, a friend, and "the blue sky above"--
And underneath, the everlasting arms
Of them that toil and groan and bleed for him.
I have a widow'd mother, to whom I cleave
With a devouring passion. My sole care
And joy she is. "What money I can spare"
Is hers--when she can get it. If I leave
Upon your urgent errand she will grieve
(Poor soul), and find no comfort anywhere--
Beauty draws some men my a single hair;
But me--I'm all for mother, please believe.
A boy's best friend's his mother without a doubt
And a most excellent mother have I got:
'Tis true, the other day, she said, "You go--
I'll struggle through!" I murmured, "Certainly not!"--
Sharp like, and firm. . . Dear heart, she'll never know
How much I've loved her--since the war broke out!
In me behold the trusty stay and prop
Of Mr. Cheesemonger. He calls me Sam;
I mix his eggs and cut his "splendid" ham,
And clean his windows and sweep up his shop,
And drive his pony till it's fit to drop,
And help his customers into the tram--
I'm indispensable, I am, I am,
And if I went the business would go flop.
Kind Mr. C. remarks "A pretty thing
To want my right-hand man--and like their cheek!
Now, who comes first, your Country and your King
Or me?" Of course, I answered, "You do, sir!"
He raised my screw to eighteen bob a week
And claims exempton for a "manager."
And I--ah, mine's a bitter case indeed;
You call me slacker, coward, what you will--
I have a patent duty to fulfil
By my white soul whose promptings I must heed:
It's not my fault if heroes choose to bleed,
Blood I abhor, and no man's blood I'll spill,
My conscience simply will not let me kill--
The Sixth Commandment's plain for all to read.
Clearly, who fights is either wicked or mad,
And rage and malice are the spawn of hell;
No quarrel have I with Germans or with Turks:
I'm single--yes! Profession? I used to sell
Cats' meat before the war; but times being bad
I've taken a job at a munition works.