Poems of the Great War/United Front

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The United Front
by Alfred Noyes


THE UNITED FRONT


I.


THUS only should it come, if come it must;
Not with a riot of flags or a mob-born cry,
   But with a noble faith, a conscience high
And pure and proud as heaven, wherein we trust,
We who have fought for peace, have dared the thrust
   Of calumny for peace, and watched here die,
   Her scutcheons rent from sky to outraged sky
By felon hands, and trampled into the dust.

We fought for peace, and we have seen the law
   Cancelled, not once, nor twice, by felon hands,
      But shattered, again, again, and yet again.
We fought for peace. Now, in God's name, we draw
   The sword, not with a riot of flags and bands,
      But silence, and a mustering of men.

II.


They challenge Truth. An Empire makes reply.
   One faith, one flag, one honour, and one might.
   From sea to sea, from height to war-worn height,
The old word rings out—to conquer, or to die.

And we shall conquer. Though their eagles fly
    Through heaven, around this ancient isle unite
    Powers that were never vanquished in the fight,
The unconquerable Powers that cannot lie.

But they who challenge Truth, Law, Justice, all
    The bases on which God and man stand sure
       Throughout all ages, fools!—they thought us
          torn
So far with discord that the blow might fall
    Unanswered; and, while those Powers endure,
        This is our answer: Unity and Scorn.

III.


We trust not in the multitude of an host.
    Nations that greatly builded, greatly stand.
    In those dark hours, the Splendour of a Hand
Has moved behind the darkness, till that coast
Where hate and faction seemed to triumph most
    Reveals itself—a buckler and a brand,
    Our rough-hewn work, shining o'er sea and land,
But shaped to nobler ends than man could boast.

It is God's answer. Though, for many a year,
   This land forgot the faith that made her great,
      Now, as her fleets cast off the North Sea foam,
Casting aside all faction and all fear,
   Thrice-armed in all the majesty of her fate,
      Britain remembers, and her sword stikes home.