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

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PEACE



"WHEN THERE IS PEACE"

"WHEN there is Peace our land no more
Will be the land we knew of yore."
Thus do our facile seers foretell
The truth that none can buy or sell
And e'en the wisest must ignore.


When we have bled at every pore,
Shall we still strive for gear and store?
Will it be Heaven? Will it be Hell,
When there is peace?


This let us pray for, this implore:
That all base dreams thrust out at door,
We may in loftier aims excel
And, like men waking from a spell,
Grow stronger, nobler, than before,
When there is Peace.


CLEAN HANDS

MAKE this thing plain to us, O Lord!
That not the triumph of the sword—
Not that alone—can end the strife,
But reformation of the life—
But full submission to Thy Word!


Not all the stream of blood outpoured
Can Peace—the Long-desired—afford;
Not tears of Mother, Maid or Wife . . .
Make this thing plain!


We must root out our sins ignored,
By whatsoever name adored;
Our secret sins, that, ever rife,
Shrink from the operating knife;
Then shall we rise, renewed, restored . . .
Make this thing plain!


PEACE

(November 11, 1918)

PEACE, battle-worn and starved, and gaunt and pale,
Rises like mist upon a storm-swept shore,
Rises from out the bloodstained fields and bows her head,
Blessing the passionate dead
Who gladly died that she might live for evermore.


Unheeding generations come and go,
And careless men and women will forget,
Caught in the whirling loom whose tapestried To-day
Flings Yesterday away,
And covers up the crimsoned West whose sun has set.


But faithful ghosts, like shepherds, will return
To call the flocking shades and break with them
Love-bread, and Peace will strain them to her breast, and weep,
And deathless vigil keep.
Yea, Peace, while worlds endure, will sing their requiem.


AFTER THE WAR

AFTER the war—I hear men ask—what then?
As though this rock-ribbed world, sculptured with fire,
And bastioned deep in the ethereal plan,
Can never be its morning self again
Because of this brief madness, man with man;
As though the laughing elements should tire,
The very seasons in their order reel;
As though indeed yon ghostly golden wheel
Of stars should cease from turning, or the moon
Befriend the night no more, or the wild rose
Forget the world, and June be no more June.


How many wars and long forgotten woes
Unnumbered, nameless, made a like despair,
In hearts long stilled; how many suns have set
On burning cities blackening the air,—
Yet dawn came dreaming back, her lashes wet
With dew, and daisies in her innocent hair.
Nor shall, for this, the soul's ascension pause,
Nor the sure evolution of the laws
That out of foulness lift the flower to sun,
And out of fury forge the evening star.


Deem not Love's building of the world undone—
Far Love's beginning was, her end is far;
By paths of fire and blood her feet must climb,
Seeking a loveliness she scarcely knows,
Whose meaning is beyond the reach of Time.


WHEN IT IS FINISHED

WHEN it is finished, Father, and we set
The war-stained buckler and the bright blade by,
Bid us remember then what bloody sweat,
What thorns, what agony,
Purchased our wreaths of harvest and ripe ears;
Whose empty hands, whose empty hearts, whose tears
In this Gethsemane
Ransomed the days to be.


We leave them to Thee, Saviour. We've no price,
No utmost treasure of the seas or lands,
No words, no deeds, to pay their sacrifice.
Only while England stands,
Their pearl, their pride, their altar,—not their grave,—
Bid us remember in what hours they gave
All that mankind may give
That we might live.


REVEILLÉ

ENDED the watches of the dark; oh hear the bugles blow—
The bugles blow Reveillé at the golden gates of morn;
A shudder moves the living East; the stars are burning low
Above the crystal cradle of a day that's newly born.
Arise ye slumbering legions; wake for honour and for right;
Awake, arise, ye myriad men, to faith and justice sworn;
High heaven's fires are flashing on the valley and the height,
And the bugles blow Reveillé at the golden gates of morn.
Within the holy of your hearts, oh hear the bugles blow—
The bugles blow Reveillé at the golden gates of morn,
And welcome with their clarion ineffable foreglow
Of a sunrise where the souls of men are being newly born.
Awake, arise, ye legions, to the challenge of the dead;
Arise, awake and follow in the footsteps they have worn;
For their spirits are the glory of the dayspring overhead,
And their bugles blow Reveillé at the golden gates of morn.

[From Plain Song, 1914-1916. Reprinted by permission of William Heinemann, London.]


WHEN I COME HOME

WHEN I come home, dear folk o' mine,
We'll drink a cup of olden wine;
And yet, however rich it be,
No wine will taste so good to me
As English air. How I shall thrill
To drink it in on Hampstead Hill
When I come home!


When I come home, and leave behind
Dark things I would not call to mind,
I'll taste good ale and home-made bread,
And see white sheets and pillows spread.
And there is one who'll softly creep
To kiss me, ere I fall asleep,
And tuck me 'neath the counterpane,
And I shall be a boy again,
When I come home!


When I come home from dark to light,
And tread the roadways long and white,
And tramp the lanes I tramped of yore,
And see the village greens once more,
The tranquil farms, the meadows free,
The friendly trees that nod to me,
And hear the lark beneath the sun,
'Twill be good pay for what I've done,
When I come home!