Page:A treasury of war poetry, British and American poems of the world war, 1914-1919.djvu/49

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49
ENGLAND


Then I remembered. All wide England spread
Before me, hill and wood and meadow and stream
And ancient roads and homes of men long dead,
And all the beauty a familiar dream.
On the green hills a cloud of silver grey
Gave gentle light stranger than light of day.


And clear between the hills, past the near crest
And many hills, the hungry cities crept,
Noble and mean, oppressive and oppressed,
Where dreams unrealized of England slept:
And they too England, packed in dusty street
With men that half forgot England was sweet.


—Millions of men that almost had forgot
And now remembered since for her they strove;
But that vexed happiness remembered not,
And pain, in the simplicity of love;
Bright careless courage hiding all that stirred
Within, when that loud solemn call they heard.


Now they were far, but like a living brain
Quick with their thought, the earth, hills, air and light
Were quivering as though a shining rain
Falling all round made ev'n the light more bright;
And trees and water and heath and hedge-flowers fair
With more than natural sweetness washed the air.


From hill to hill a sparkling web it swung,
A snare for happiness, lit with lovely dews.
The very smoke of cities now was hung
But like a grave girl's dress of tranquil hues:
And how (I thought) can England, seen thus bright,
Lifting her clear frank head, but love the light?—


No, not her brain! that bright web was the shadow
Of the high spirit in their spirit shining
Who on scarred foreign hill and trenchèd meadow
Kept the faith yet, unfearful, unrepining;—
Her faith that with the dark world's liberty
Mingles as earth's great rivers with the sea.