A treasury of war poetry, British and American poems of the world war, 1914-1919/Auxiliaries

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A treasury of war poetry, ... 1914-1919
Part 19, Auxiliaries

AUXILIARIES



CHAPLAIN TO THE FORCES

["I have once more to remark upon the devotion to duty, courage, and contempt of danger which has characterized the work of the Chaplains of the Army throughout this campaign."—Sir John French, in the Neuve Chapelle dispatch.]

AMBASSADOR of Christ you go
Up to the very gates of Hell,
Through fog of powder, storm of shell,
To speak your Master's message: "Lo,
The Prince of Peace is with you still,
His peace be with you, His good-will."


It is not small, your priesthood's price,
To be a man and yet stand by,
To hold your life while others die.
To bless, not share the sacrifice,
To watch the strife and take no part—
You with the fire at your heart.


But yours, for our great Captain Christ,
To know the sweat of agony,
The darkness of Gethsemane,
In anguish for these souls unpriced.
Vicegerent of God's pity you,
A sword must pierce your own soul through.


In the pale gleam of new-born day,
Apart in some tree-shadowed place,
Your altar but a packing case,
Rude as the shed where Mary lay,
Your sanctuary the rain-drenched sod,
You bring the kneeling soldier God.


As sentinel you guard the gate
'Twixt life and death, and unto death
Speed the brave soul whose failing breath
Shudders not at the grip of Fate,
But answers, gallant to the end,
"Christ is the Word—and I His friend."


Then God go with you, priest of God,
For all is well and shall be well.
What though you tread the roads of Hell,
Your Captain these same ways has trod.
Above the anguish and the loss
Still floats the ensign of His Cross.


SONG OF THE RED CROSS

O GRACIOUS ones, we bless your name
 Upon our bended knee;
The voice of love with tongue of flame
 Records your charity.


Your hearts, your lives right willingly ye gave,
 That sacred ruth might shine;
Ye fell, bright spirits, brave amongst the brave,
 Compassionate, divine.


Example from your lustrous deeds
 The conqueror shall take,
Sowing sublime and fruitful seeds
 Of aidos in this ache.


And when our griefs have passed on gloomy wing,
 When friend and foe are sped,
Sons of a morning to be born shall sing
 The radiant Cross of Red;
Sons of a morning to be born shall sing
 The radiant Cross of Red.


THE HEALERS

IN a vision of the night I saw them,
 In the battles of the night.
'Mid the roar and the reeling shadows of blood
 They were moving like light,


Light of the reason, guarded
 Tense within the will,
As a lantern under a tossing of boughs
 Burns steady and still.


With scrutiny calm, and with fingers
 Patient as swift
They bind up the hurts and the pain-writhen
 Bodies uplift,


Untired and defenceless; around them
 With shrieks in its breath
Bursts stark from the terrible horizon
 Impersonal death;


But they take not their courage from anger
 That blinds the hot being;
They take not their pity from weakness;
 Tender, yet seeing;


Feeling, yet nerved to the uttermost;
 Keen, like steel;
Yet the wounds of the mind they are stricken with,
 Who shall heal?


They endure to have eyes of the watcher
 In hell, and not swerve
For an hour from the faith that they follow,
 The light that they serve.


Man true to man, to his kindness
 That overflows all,
To his spirit erect in the thunder
 When all his forts fall,—


This light, in the tiger-mad welter,
 They serve and they save.
What song shall be worthy to sing of them
 Braver than the brave?


THE RED CROSS NURSE

THE battle-smoke still fouled the day, 
 With bright disaster flaming through;
Unchecked, absorbed, she held her way—
 The whispering death still past her flew.


A cross of red was on her sleeve;
 And here she stayed, the wound to bind,
And there, the fighting soul relieve,
 That strove its Unknown Peace to find.


A cross of red . . . yet one has dreamed
 Of her he loved and left in tears;
But unto dying sight she seemed
 A visitant from other spheres.


The whispering death—it nearer drew,
 It holds her heart in strict arrest . .
And where was one, are crosses two—
 A crimson cross is on her breast!