Armistice Day/War

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II

WAR


THE PRESIDENT'S WAR MESSAGE

BY WOODROW WILSON

Gentlemen of the Congress:

I have called the Congress into extraordinary session because there are serious, very serious, choices of policy to be made, and made immediately, which it was neither right nor constitutionally permissible that I should assume the responsibility of making.

On the third of February last I officially laid before you the extraordinary announcement of the Imperial German Government that on and after the first day of February it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts of Europe or any of the Mediterranean.

That had seemed to be the object of the German submarine warfare earlier in the war, but since April of last year the Imperial Government had somewhat restrained the commanders of its undersea craft in conformity with its promise then given to us that passenger boats should not be sunk and that due warning would be given to all other vessels which its submarines might seek to destroy when no resistance was offered or escape attempted, and care taken that their crews were given at least a fair chance to save their lives in their open boats.

The new policy has swept every restriction aside. Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents.

When I addressed the Congress on the 26th of February last I thought it would suffice to assert our neutral rights with arms, our right to use the seas against unlawful interference, our right to keep our people safe against unlawful violence. But armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable. Because submarines are in effect outlaws, when used as the German submarines have been used against merchant shipping, it is impossible to defend ships against their attacks, as the law of nations has assumed that merchantmen would defend themselves against privateers or cruisers, visible craft giving chase upon the open sea. It is common prudence in such circumstances, grim necessity, indeed, to endeavor to destroy them before they have shown their own intention. They must be dealt with upon sight, if dealt with at all.

With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the Government and people of the United States, that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense, but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire to terms and end the war.

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquests, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Just because we fight without rancor and without selfish object, seeking nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to share with all free people, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we profess to be fighting for.

It will be all the easier for us to conduct ourselves as belligerents in a high spirit of right and fairness because we act without animus, not in enmity toward a people or with the desire to bring any injury or disadvantage upon them, but only in armed opposition to an irresponsible government which has thrown aside all considerations of humanity and of right and is running amuck.

We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no feeling toward them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their government acted in entering the war. It was not with their previous knowledge or approval. It was a war determined upon as wars used to be determined upon in the old unhappy days, when peoples were nowhere consulted by their rulers and wars were provoked and waged in the interests of dynasties or of little groups of ambitious men who were accustomed to use their fellow-men as pawns and tools.

It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great, peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance.

But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own Governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free people as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.

God helping her, she can do no other.

 
 

RHEIMS CATHEDRAL

BY GRACE HAZARD CONKLING

A wingèd death has smitten dumb thy bells,
And poured them molten from thy tragic towers:
Now are the windows dust that were thy flowers
Patterned like frost, petaled like asphodels.
Gone are the angels and the archangels,
The saints, the little lamb above thy door,
The shepherd Christ! They are not any more,
Save in the soul where exiled beauty dwells.
But who has heard within thy vaulted gloom
That old divine insistence of the sea,
When music flows along the sculptured stone
In tides of prayer, for him thy windows bloom
Like faithful sunset, warm immortally!
Thy bells live on, and Heaven is in their tone!

 
 

DRAW THE SWORD, O REPUBLIC

BY EDGAR LEE MASTERS

By the blue sky of a clear vision,
And by the white light of a great illumination,
And by the blood-red of brotherhood,
Draw the sword, O Republic!
Draw the sword!


For the light which is England,
And the resurrection which is Russia,
And the sorrow which is France,
And for peoples everywhere
Crying in bondage,
And in poverty!


You have been a leaven in the earth, O Republic!
And a watch-fire on the hill-top scattering sparks;
And an eagle clanging his wings on a cloud-wrapped promontory:
Now the leaven must be stirred,
And the brands themselves carried and touched
To the jungles and the black forests.
Now the eaglets are grown, they are calling,
They are crying to each other from the peaks—
They are flapping their passionate wings in the sunlight,
Eager for battle!
As a strong man nurses his youth
To the day of trial;
But as a strong man nurses it no more
On the day of trial,
But exults and cries, "For Victory, O Strength!
And for the glory of my City, O treasured youth!"
You shall neither save your youth,
Nor hoard your strength
Beyond this hour, O Republic!


For you have sworn
By the passion of the Gaul,
And the strength of the Teuton,
And the will of the Saxon,
And the hunger of the Poor,
That the white man shall lie down by the black man,
And by the yellow man,
And all men shall be one spirit, as they are one flesh,
Through Wisdom, Liberty and Democracy.
And forasmuch as the earth cannot hold
Aught beside them,
You have dedicated the earth, O Republic,
To Wisdom, Liberty and Democracy!


By the power that drives the soul to Freedom,
And by the Power that makes us love our fellows.
And by the Power that comforts us in death,
Dying for great races to come—
Draw the sword, O Republic!
Draw the sword!

 
 

FROM PRESIDENT WILSON'S WAR PROCLAMATION

The power against which we are arrayed has sought to impose its will upon the world by force. To this end it has increased armament until it has changed the face of war. In the sense in which we have been wont to think of armies there are no armies in this struggle. There are entire nations armed. Thus, the men who remain to till the soil and man the factories are no less a part of the army that is in France than the men beneath the battle flags. It must be so with us. It is not an army that we must shape and train for war: it is a nation.

To this end our people must draw close in one compact front against a common foe. But this cannot be if each man pursues a private purpose. All must pursue one purpose. The Nation needs all men; but it needs each man, not in the field that will most pleasure him, but in the endeavor that will best serve the common good.

Thus, though a sharpshooter pleases to operate a trip-hammer for the forging of great guns, and an expert machinist desires to march with the flag, the Nation is being served only when the sharpshooter marches and the machinist remains at his labors. The whole Nation must be a team in which each man shall play the part for which he is best fitted. To this end, Congress has provided that the Nation shall be organized for war by selection and that each man shall be classified for service in the place to which it shall best serve the general good to call him.

The significance of this cannot be overstated. It is a new thing in our history and a landmark in our progress. It is a new manner of accepting and vitalizing our duty to give ourselves with thoughtful devotion to the common purpose of us all. It is in no sense a conscription of the unwilling; it is, rather, selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass. It is no more a choosing of those who shall march with the colors than it is a selection of those who shall serve an equally necessary and devoted purpose in the industries that lie behind the battle line.

The day here named is the time upon which all shall present themselves for assignment to their tasks. It is for that reason destined to be remembered as one of the most conspicuous moments in our history. It is nothing less than the day upon which the manhood of the country shall step forward in one solid rank in defense of the ideals to which this Nation is consecrated. It is important to those ideals no less than to the pride of this generation in manifesting its devotion to them, that there be no gaps in the ranks.

It is essential that the day be approached in thoughtful apprehension of its significance and that we accord to it the honor and the meaning that it deserves.

Our industrial need prescribes that it be not made a technical holiday, but the stern sacrifice that is before us urges that it be carried in all our hearts as a great day of patriotic devotion and obligation when the duty shall lie upon every man, whether he is himself to be registered or not, to see to it that the name of every male person of the designated ages is written on these lists of honor.

 
 

MARCHING SONG

BY DANA BURNET

When Pershing's men go marching into Picardy, marching, marching into Picardy—
With their steel a-slant in the sunlight and their great gray hawks a-wing
And their wagons rumbling after them like wagons in the Spring—


Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp
Till the earth is shaken.
Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp
Till the dead towns waken!
And flowers fall, and shouts arise from Chaumont to the sea—
When Pershing's men go marching, marching into Picardy.


Women of France, do you see them pass to the battle in the North?
And do you stand in the doorways now as when your own went forth?
Then smile to them, and call to them, and mark how brave they fare
Upon the road to Picardy that only youth may dare!


Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp,
Foot and horse and caisson—
Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp,
Such is Freedom's passion—
And oh, take heart, ye weary souls that stand along the Lys,
For the New World is marching, marching into Picardy!


April's sun is in the sky and April's in the grass—
And I doubt not that Pershing's men are singing as they pass—
For they are very young men, and brave men, and free
And they know why they are marching, marching into Picardy.


Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp,
Rank and file together—
Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp
Through the April weather.
And never Spring has thrust such blades against the light of dawn
As yonder waving stalks of steel that move so shining on!


I have seen the wooden crosses at Ypres and Verdun
I have marked the graves of such as lie where the Marne waters run,
And I know their dust is stirring by hill and vale and lea,
And their souls shall be our captains who march to Picardy.


Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp,
Hope shall fail us never—
Tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp
Forward, and forever!
And God is in His judgment seat, and Christ is on His tree—
And Pershing's men are marching, marching into Picardy.

 
 

AMERICA GOES IN SINGING

(From The Public Ledger, Philadelphia)

"The American troops will fight side by side with the British and French troops and the Star Spangled Banner will float beside the French and English flags in the plains of Picardy."

This was the official answer to General Pershing's words to General Foch:

"All that we have are yours, to dispose of them as you will."

When Pershing stood at the tomb of Lafayette and uttered the briefest and finest war address that has been delivered, "Lafayette, we are here!" he spoke for the American spirit, to the soul of the French people. Our country from sea to sea ratified the message of a soldier unafraid. It was

"The voice of one for millions
In whom the millions rejoice
For giving their one spirit voice."

Even so with Pershing's offer of our whole armed force at once, to beat back the tidal wave of the flagellated myrmidons of Prussia. The country that we love will send into No Man's Land, to reclaim it for God and from the Devil, its first hundred thousand, its million, and then its millions more, if they are needed, to assure the triumph of the right and the salvation of the world from the glutted maw of the Beast of Beasts, of Moloch in a death's-head helmet.

Our men, our sons and brothers, march on singing toward the fray. The Irish poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy has told us that

"Three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down."

Terrible indeed is the striking power of a singing army—as Cromwell's psalm-singing Ironsides proved. Mile after mile of men in khaki, tramping the measured cadence down the miry highways to the front, are lifting in lyric unison their battle anthems—"Where Do We Go From Here, Boys?" and "Over There" and "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag." These swarming caravans moving toward the firing line like inspired clockwork, without confusion—these rumbling guns outlandishly bespotted to hide them from the prying eyes aloft—these motor-trucks and rocking, rumbling wagons roofed with brown, and above all and before all, these marching columns of men pressing forward to relieve the warworn thousands in the trenches with their irrepressible youth and strength and high, joking courage—all this means for us at home and for us who are over there a shining dream brought true, a great day dawning for America, a saving grace for our country where liberty, so dearly bought by the blood of our fathers, is forever cherished and forever sanctified.

America is in the fight because she "can do no other." Our men could not endure to wait an hour longer. "Watchman, what of the night?" was the interrogation that ran from armed camp to armed camp. Their brothers beneath the Union Jack and the Tricolor were in the thick of the hardest battle ever waged on earth, and were falling and dying. With a righteous indignation burning in their hearts, and on their lips the song of the happy warrior who vindicates the right, our men march forward into battle—their faces to the enemy—their love with us at home—their glory safe with God.

 
 

I HAVE A RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH

BY ALAN SEEGER

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade;
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land,
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow flowers appear.


God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed on silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear—
But I've a rendezvous with Death,
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

 
 

THE MAN OF THE MARNE

BY BLISS CARMAN

The gray battalions were driving down
Like snow from the North on Paris Town.
Dread and panic were in the air,
The fate of empires hung by a hair.
With the world in the balance, what shall decide?
How stem the sweep of the conquering tide?
God of Justice, be not far
In this our hour of holy war!
In one man's valor, where all were men,
The strength of a people was gathered then.
"My right is weakened, my left is thin,
My center is almost driven in,"
The soul of a patriot spoke through the hush,
"I shall advance," said General Foch.


Forth from Paris to meet the storm
They rushed like bees in an angry swarm.
By motor and lorry and truck they came
Swift as the wind and fierce as flame.
Galliéni knew the trick
Of stinging hot and hard and quick.
Not for ambition and not for pride,
For France they fought, for France they died,
Striking the blow of the Marne that hurled
The barbarians back and saved the world.
The German against that hope forlorn
Broke his drive like a crumpled horn.
Their right was weakened, their left was thin,
Their center was almost driven in;
When the tide of battle turned with a rush—
For France was there—and Ferdinand Foch.


Not since Garibaldi's stroke
Freed his land from the Austrian yoke,
And Italy after a thousand years
Walked in beauty among her peers;
Not since Nelson followed the star
Of Freedom to triumph at Trafalgar
On the tossing floor of the Western seas;
No, not since Miltiades
Fronted the Persian hosts and won
Against the tyrant at Marathon,
Has a greater defender of liberty
Stood and struck for the cause than he,
Whose right was weakened, whose left was thin,
Whose center was almost driven in,
But whose iron courage no fate could crush
Nor hinder. "I shall advance," said Foch.


We who are left to carry the fray
For civilization on to-day,
The war of the angels for goodly right
Against the devil of brutish might,—
The war for manhood, mercy, and love,
And peace with honor all price above,—
What shall we answer, how prepare,
For Destiny's challenge, Who goes there?
And pass with the willing and worthy to give
Life; that freedom and faith may live?
When promise and patience are wearing thin,
When endurance is almost driven in,
When our angels stand in a waiting hush,
Remember the Marne and Ferdinand Foch.

 
 

LETTER BY AN AMERICAN OFFICER

ANONYMOUS

(N. Y. Times, August, 1918)

I am writing you a few lines to say that I am assigned with my company to two French companies to defend an important position (hill) against the expected German offensive. My company will be in the first position to resist the tremendous concentration against us, and I do not believe there is a chance of any of us surviving the first rush. I am proud to be trusted with such a post of honor and have the greatest confidence in my own men to do their duty to the end.... My company is expected to protect the right flank of the position and to counter attack at sight of the first Boche. In war some units have to be sacrificed for the safety of the rest, and this post has fallen to us and will be executed gladly as one contribution to the final victory.... I want you in case I am killed to be brave and remember that one could not have wished a better way to die than for a righteous cause and one's country.

 
 

THE HERO OF VIMY[1]

(An incident of the Great War)

BY BRENT DOW ALLINSON

We charged at Vimy,—zero was at four;
Sore-eyed we rose and cursed the bleeding war,
And sick at heart, half paralyzed with fear,
Waited in mud and mist—it seemed a year—
Talking in whispers while we gulped the gin;
And John, our sergeant, looked scared-white and thin,
(This was his first trip over) as he said:
"I wish we'd go; one might as well be dead
As in this slaughter-pen. What fools we are!
What poor, damned fools!" ...
A murmur from afar
Like wind through winter branches rose and fell
Along the line,—and up we went pell-mell,
Kicking the ladders backward in the mud,—
Crazy as loons, thirsting for German blood!


Then broke the storm like thunder on the plain!
The heavens roared—the shrapnel fell like rain;
Through the dun mist of dawn we groped and ran
In a long wave up that infernal hill,
Dodging black stumps and blacker pits until
I tripped on what had one time been a man
And fell headlong with a torn and bleeding thigh—
Angry and helpless while the storm drove by;
Thinking of John and the children there I lay
And watched the sullen sky grow ashen gray ...


They found him hanging dead upon the wire,—
Caught like a fly in a huge spider-net ...
In a few days the Colonel came to inquire
If I were well, and how my leg was set:
"You should have seen the troops! God! They were splendid!"
"Was the wire cut?" I asked.
His laughter ended.
"By some mischance our barrage fell too high;
The boys got badly tangled as they came,"
He answered. "But our staff was not to blame."


"A pity that so many had to die
Through negligence!" I said, and turned my face.


"I shall report the matter to the base,"—
His quick retort. "It was a bloody shame;
But then, we'd men to spare and there's no blame
So far as we're concerned ... Lord! how they died!"


He smiled and went And as I saw him ride
Down that charred slope—his orderly abaft—
I cried to Heaven,—and wondered if God laughed!

 
 

THE LOOK IN THEIR EYES

BY ROBERT HAVEN SCHAUFFLER

Youthful and buoyant and blithe they went into battle,
Fresh as Olympian athletes strung for the prize:
Aged and broken and done they dragged from the victory,
All with that look, that terrible look in their eyes.


Plainly I saw in their eyes the plunge of the bayonet.
Plainly the crater's fresh red, and the faint, overwise
Smile on a comrade's cold lips and his blackening body
Were mirrored once more by the terrible look in their eyes.


Never again shall they greet with youth's poignant pleasure,
Forests or tremulous dawns or the round moon's rise,
Or beauty or grandeur or love or the glory of heaven
Who return with the mark of the knowledge of hell in their eyes.

 
 

COMRADES IN A COMMON CAUSE

BY BISHOP BRENT

We comrades in the common cause have come together like sturdy Judas Maccabeus and his fellow patriots in the ancient story, to commit our decision to the Lord and place ourselves in His hands before we pitch our camp and go forth to battle. It were an unworthy cause that we could not commit to God with complete confidence. To-day we have this confidence.

This, I venture to say, is not merely the beginning of a new era, but of a new epoch. At this moment a great nation, well skilled in self-sacrifice, is standing by with deep sympathy and bidding Godspeed to another great nation that is making its act of self-dedication to God. That altar upon which we Americans are to-day laying our lives and our fortunes is already occupied. After three years Great Britain and her allies have been fighting not merely for their own laws, their own homes, their liberty, and all they hold sacred, but for the great commonwealth of mankind.

To-day, when the United States avow their intention of giving themselves wholeheartedly to this great cause, the battle for the right assumes new proportions. A new power and victory—aye, a victory that is God's is in sight. We Americans have never been oblivious to the fact that the people of this country have been standing for the same principles which we love and for which we live. England, thank God, is the mother of democracy, and England's children come back to-day to pour all their experience, the experience of a century and a half of independent life, with gratitude at the feet of their mother.

To-day we stand side by side with our fellows as common soldiers in the common fight. There have been great quarrels in the past that were results of misunderstanding, but our quarrel with Germany is not based on misunderstanding. It is due to understanding. Just as it was understanding that made us break with Germany, so it is understanding which makes us take our place by the side of the Allies. It would have been impossible for us to do otherwise.

This act of America has enabled her to find her soul. America, which stands for democracy, must champion the cause of the plain people at all costs. The plain people most desire peace. That is what America with the Allies is fighting for. She thinks so much of peace that she is ready to pay the cost of war. Our war to-day is that we may destroy war. One thing to do with war is to hunt it to its death and, please God, in this war we shall achieve our purpose.

 
 

THE NIGHTINGALES OF FLANDERS

BY GRACE HAZARD CONKLING

The nightingales of Flanders,
They have not gone to war;
A soldier heard them singing
Where they had sung before.


The earth was torn and quaking,
The sky about to fall;
The nightingales of Flanders.
They minded not at all.


At intervals he heard them,
Between the guns, he said,
Making a thrilling music
Above the listening dead.


Of woodland and of orchard
And roadside tree bereft,
The nightingales of Flanders
Were singing, "France is left!"

 
 

PARIS AGAIN

(From Punch)

Big blue overcoat and breeches red as red,
And a queer quaint kepi at an angle on his head;
And he sang as he was marching, and in the Tuileries
You could meet him en permission with Margot on his knee.
At the little café tables by the dusty palms in tubs,
In the Garden of the Luxembourg, among the scented shrubs,
On the old Boul. Mich. of student days, you saw his red and blue;
Did you come to love the fantassin, le p'tit piou-piou?


He has gone, gone, vanished, like a dream of yesternight;
He is out among the hedges where the shrapnel smoke is white;
And some of him are singing still and some of him are dead,
And blood and mud and sweat and smoke have stained his blue and red,
He is out among the hedges and the ditches in the rain,
But, when the soixante-quinzes are hushed, just hark!—the old refrain,
"Si tu veux faire mon bonheur, Marguerite, O Marguerite,"
Ringing clear above the rifles and the trampling of the feet.


Ah, may le bon Dieu send him back again in blue and red,
With his queer, quaint kepi at an angle on his head.
So the Seine shall laugh again beneath the sunlight's quick caress;
So the Meudon woods shall echo once again to "La Jeunesse."
And all along the Luxembourg and in the Tuileries,
We shall meet him en permission with Margot on his knee.

 
 

AT GALLIPOLI

BY JOHN MASEFIELD

Ship after ship, crammed with soldiers, moved slowly out of the harbor, in the lovely day, and felt again the heave of the sea. No such gathering of fine ships has ever been seen upon the earth, and the beauty and exaltation of the youth upon them made them like sacred things as they moved away.... These men had come from all parts of the British world.... They had said good-by to home that they might offer their lives in the cause we stand for. In a few hours at most, as they well knew, perhaps a tenth of them, would have looked their last on the sun, and be a part of foreign earth or dumb things that the tides push. Many of them would have disappeared for ever from the knowledge of man, blotted from the book of life none would know how; by a fall or a chance shot in the darkness, in the blast of a shell, or alone, like a hurt beast, in some scrub or gully, far from comrades and the English speech and the English singing. And perhaps a third of them would be mangled, blinded or broken, lamed, made imbecile or disfigured, with the color and the taste of life taken from them, so that they would never move with comrades nor exult in the sun.... But as they moved out, these things were but the end they asked, the reward they had come for, the unseen cross upon the breast. All that they felt was a gladness of exultation that their young courage was to be used. They went like Kings in a pageant to the imminent death.

As they passed from moorings to the man-of-war anchorage on their way to the sea, their feeling that they had done with life and were going out to something new welled up in those battalions; they cheered and cheered till the harbor rang with cheering. As each ship crammed with soldiers drew near the battleships, the men swung their caps and cheered again, and the sailors answered, and the noise of cheering swelled, and the men in the ships not yet moving joined in, and the men ashore, till all the life in the harbor was giving thanks that it could go to death rejoicing. All was beautiful in that gladness of men about to die....

They left the harbor very, very slowly; this tumult of cheering lasted a long time; no one who heard it will ever forget it, or think of it unshaken. It broke the hearts of all there with pity and pride; it went beyond the guard of the English heart. Presently all were out ... and the sun went down with marvelous color, lighting island after island, and the Asian peaks, and those left behind in Mudros trimmed their lamps knowing that they had been for a little brought near to the heart of things.

 
 

CAPTAIN GUYNEMER

BY FLORENCE EARLE COATES

What high adventure, in what world afar,
Follows to-day,
Mid ampler air,
Heroic Guynemer?
What star,
Of all the myriad planets of our night,
Is by his glowing presence made more bright
Who chose the Dangerous way,
Scorning, while brave men died, ignobly safe to stay?


Into the unknown Vast,
Where few could follow him, he passed,—
On to the gate—the shadowy gate—
Of the Forbidden,
Seeking the knowledge jealous Fate
Had still so carefully from mortals hidden.


With vision falcon-keen,
His eyes beheld what others had not seen,
And his soul, with as clear a gaze,
Pierced through each clouded maze
Straight to the burning heart of things, and knew
The lying from the true.


A dweller in Immensity,
Of naught afraid,
He saw the havoc Tyranny had made,—
Saw the relentless tide of War's advance,
And high of heart and free,
Vowed his young life to Liberty—
And France!


O Compiègne! be proud of him—thy son,—
The greatest of the eagle brood,—
Who with intrepid soul the foe withstood,
And rests, his victories won!
Mourn not uncomforted, but rather say:—
His wings were broken, but he led the way
Where myriad stronger wings shall follow;
For Wrong shall not hold lasting sway,
To break the World's heart, nor betray
With cruel pledges hollow!


To us the battle draweth near.
We dedicate ourselves again,
Remembering, O Compiègne!
Thy Charioteer—
Thy peerless one, who died to make men free,
And in Man's grateful heart shall live immortally!

 
 

FROM LETTERS AND DIARY

OF ALAN SEEGER

Another participant in the attack upon Belloy-en-Santerre wrote for La Liberte of Paris the stirring account, of which this is a translation:

Six o'clock at night.

The Legion attacks Belloy-en-Santerre. The 3rd battalion is to carry the southern part of the village. With a rush, it starts, its two leading companies pressing straight forward, beneath the crash of bursting shells, across a chaos of detonations.... En avant!

The men hurry on, clutching tightly their arms; some set their teeth, others shout.

Three hundred meters yet to cross and they will reach the enemy.... En avant!

But suddenly, hands relax their grasp, arms open, bodies stagger and fall, as the clatter of the German mitrailleuses spreads death over the plain where, but a moment before, men were passing.

Hidden in the road from Estrees to Belloy, they have taken our men in flank, cutting to pieces the 11th company.

Cries of anguish come from the tall grass, then the calls of the unhurt for their chiefs. But all, officers and subalterns, have fallen. "My captain ... My lieutenant ... Sergeant ..."

No answer.

Suddenly a voice is heard: "No more chiefs left. Come on, all the same, nom de Dieu! Come on! Lie flat, boys, he that lifts his head is done for. En avant!"

And the legionaries, crawling onward, continue the attack.

The wounded see the second wave pass, then the third.... They cheer on their comrades:

"Courage, fellows, death to the Boches! On with you!"

One of them sobs with rage: "To think I can't go too!"

And the high grasses shudder, their roots trodden by the men, their tops fanned by the hail of projectiles.

From the sunken road the German mitrailleuses work unceasingly....

Now, in all the plain, not a movement; the living have passed out of sight. The dead, outstretched, are as if asleep, the wounded are silent; they listen, they listen to the battle with all their ears, this battle so near to them, but in which they have no part. They wait to hear the shout of their comrades in the supreme hour of the great assault.... "Where are they now? they murmur....

Of a sudden, from the distance over there towards Belloy, a great clamor is heard:

"En avant! Vive la Legion. Ah ... Ah ... Ah ..."

And the notes of a bugle pierce the air; it is the brave Renard who sounds the charge.

The Legion, in a final bound, reaches the village.... The grenades burst, the mitrailleuses rattle....

A time which seems to the wounded, lying in the field, to be beyond measure, interminable, a time of anguish, during which one pictures man killing man, face to face, in hand-to-hand conflict.

The dying look up, the wounded raise themselves, as if all must see how the battle goes.

Then from across the field of combat a cry arises, swells, grows louder, louder: "They are there, it is over, Belloy is taken!"

And the wounded cry: "They have won. Belloy is taken!"

They are magnificent, those men, haggard, bleeding. It is the Legion fallen that salutes the glory of the Legion living:

"Belloy is ours! Vive la France! Vive la Legion! Vive la France!"

Among those who,

In that fine onslaught that no fire could halt
Parted impetuous to their first assault,

one of the first to fall was Alan Seeger. Mortally wounded, it was his fate to see his comrades pass him in their splendid charge and to forego the supreme moment of victory to which he had looked forward through so many months of bitterest hardship and trial. Together with those other generous wounded of the Legion fallen, he cheered on the fresh files as they came up to the attack and listened anxiously for the cries of triumph which should tell of their success.

It was no moment for rescue. In that zone of deadly cross-fire there could be but one thought,—to get beyond it alive, if possible. So it was not until the next day that his body was found and buried, with scores of his comrades, on the battlefield of Belloy-en-Santerre.

There, on the outskirts of the little village.
The soldier rests. Now round him undismayed
The cannon thunders, and at night he lies
At peace beneath the eternal fusillade....


That other generations might possess—
From shame and menace free in years to come—
A richer heritage of happiness,
He marched to that heroic martyrdom.


FIVE SOULS

BY W. H. EWER

First Soul

I was a peasant of the Polish plain;
I left my plow because the message ran:
Russia, in danger, needed every man
To save her from the Teuton; and was slain.
I gave my life for freedom— This I know:
For those who bade me fight had told me so.


Second Soul

I was a Tyrolese, a mountaineer;
I gladly left my mountain home to fight
Against the brutal, treacherous Muscovite;
And died in Poland on a Cossack spear.
I gave my life for freedom— This I know:
For those who bade me fight had told me so.


Third Soul

I worked at Lyons at my weaver's loom,
When suddenly the Prussian despot hurled
His felon blow at France and at the world;
Then went I forth to Belgium and my doom,
I gave my life for freedom— This I know;
For those who bade me fight had told me so.


Fourth Soul

I owned a vineyard by the wooded Main,
Until the Fatherland, begirt by foes
Lusting her downfall, called me, and I rose
Swift to the call, and died in fair Lorraine.
I gave my life for freedom— This I know:
For those who bade me fight had told me so.


Fifth Soul

I worked in a great shipyard by the Clyde.
There came a sudden word of wars declared,
Of Belgium, peaceful, helpless, unprepared,
Asking our aid: I joined the ranks, and died.
I gave my life for freedom— This I know:
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

 
 

APRIL ON THE BATTLEFIELDS

BY LEONORA SPEYER

April now walks the fields again,
Trailing her leaves,
Holding her quickening buds against her heart.
Wrapt in her clouds and mists she walks,
Groping her way among the graves of men.


The green of earth is differently green;
A dreadful knowledge trembles in the grass
And little wide-eyed flowers die too soon.
There is a stillness here
(After a terror of all raving sound),
And birds sit close for comfort,
On broken boughs.


April, April,
What of your sun and glad, high wind?
Your lifting hills and woods and eager brooks?
Your thousand-petaled hopes?
The sky forbids you sorrow, April!
And yet—
I see you walking listlessly
Across those scars that once were pregnant sod,
Those graves,
Those stepping-stones from life to life.


Death is an interruption between two heart-beats,
That I know—
Yet know not how I know—
But April mourns,
Trailing her leaves, the passion of her leaves,
Across the passion of those fearful fields.


Yes, all the fields!
No barrier here,
No challenge in the night,
No stranger-land,
No foe!
She passes with her perfect countersign,
Her green;
She wanders in her garden,
Dropping her buds like tears,
Spreading her lovely grief upon the graves of men.

 
 

FRONT LINE

BY WILLIAM ROSE BENÉT

Standing on the fire-step,
Harking into the dark,
The black was filled with figures
His comrade could not mark.
Because it was softly snowing,
Because it was Christmastide,
He saw three figures passing
Glittering in their pride.


One rode a cream-white camel,
One was a blackamoor,
One a bearded Persian;
They all rode up to the door.
They all rode up to the stable-door,
Dismounted, and bent the knee.
The door flamed open like a rose,
But more he could not see.


Standing on the fire-step
In softly falling snow,
It came to him—the carol—
Out of the long ago.
He heard the glorious organ
Fill transept, loft and nave.
He faintly heard the pulpit words:
"Himself he could not save."


And all the wires in No-man's-land
Seemed thrummed by ghostly thumbs;
There woke then such a harping
As when a hero comes,
As when a hero homeward comes—
And then his thought was back:
He leaned against the parapet
And peered into the black.


EAGLE YOUTH

BY KARLE WILSON BAKER

(1918)

They have taken his horse and plume,
They have left him to plod, and fume
For a hero's scope and room!
They have curbed his fighting pride,
They have bade him burrow and hide
With a million, side by side:
Look—into the air he springs,
Fighting with wings!


He has found a way to be free
Of that dun immensity
That would swallow up such as he:
Who would burrow when he could fly?
He will climb up into the sky
And the world shall watch him die!
Only his peers may dare
Follow him there!


I.

PRAYER IN THE TRENCHES

BY BRENT DOW ALLINSON

(What the Regimental Chaplain Prayed)

Lord God of Hosts, be with us here!
Be with our troops that have no peer!
Sheathe them and shield them with Thy might,
Teach them to scorn comfort, delight,—
To die for Freedom we revere,
And homes inestimably dear!
Gird them with iron! ... Be ever near,
Through stern and soul-redeeming night,
Lord God of Hosts!


When Christ to mortals did appear
He brought nor meek compliance nor fear,
He brought a sword,—bade men to fight;
We fight beside Him now and here—
Our holy Captain—without fear
For Peace and Liberty and Right,—
Lord God of Hosts!


II.

DE PROFUNDIS

BY BRENT DOW ALLINSON

(What the Regimental Chaplain Should Have Prayed)

Cometh the dawn: ye men who know
Infinite anguish, infinite woe,—
Blinded and scourged in a ghastly doom,
Yearning and staggering through the gloom
Of filthy war,—O Youth laid low,
Dreaming of clean things long ago,
Of Christmas eves and drifted snow,
Cursing the savage cannon-boom,—
Cometh the dawn!


All things end sometime here below,
Even hate and war; it must be so ...
The rotting flesh, the riven gloom,
Will vanish with the dreaded foe,
And peace will come and May winds blow,
And thrushes sing where lilacs bloom:
Cometh the dawn!


V. A. D.

(From Punch)

There's an angel in our ward as keeps a-flittin' to and fro
With fifty eyes upon 'er wherever she may go;
She's as pretty as a picture and as bright as mercury,
And she wears the cap and apron of a V. A. D.


The Matron she is gracious and the Sister she is kind.
But they wasn't born just yesterday and lets you know their mind;
The M. O. and the Padre is as thoughtful as can be,
But they ain't so good to look at as our V. A. D.


She's a honorable miss because 'er father is a dook,
But, Lord, you'd never guess it and it ain't no good to look
For 'er portrait in the illustrated papers, for you see
She ain't an advertiser, not our V. A. D.


Not like them that wash a teacup in an officer's canteen
And then "Engaged in War Work" in the weekly Press is seen;
She's on the trot from morn to night and busy as a bee,
And there's 'eaps of wounded Tommies bless that V. A. D.


She's the lightest 'and at dressin's and she polishes the floor,
She feeds Bill Smith who'll never never use 'is 'ands no more;
And we're all of us supporters of the harristocracy
'Cos our weary days are lightened by that V. A. D.


And when the War is over, some knight or belted earl,
What's survived from killin' Germans, will take 'er for 'is girl;
They'll go and see the pictures and then 'ave shrimps and tea;
'E's a lucky man as gets 'er—and don't I wish 'twas me!

 

 

CHRISTMAS 1917

BY BRENT DOW ALLINSON

Is it a mocking jest that Christmas bells

Chime in this tragic hour of strife and pain,
That in the misery of conflicting wills
Breathless, men whisper words of love again?


Is it a jest that Europe's stainless snows
In beauty mask her burning, bleeding scars,
Where man's blaspheming thunder comes and goes?—
Is this unholiest his last of wars?


Is this the freedom that we bought so dear,—
To live among the wolf-pack in a cage,
Spurr'd by a Sycorax to hate and fear—
Ingenious brutes that cower and kill and rage?


Have we no further end, no nobler plan,
No subtler vision and no bolder will?
Is this the creature that we called a man?
Is this the jungle that we live in still?


Be dumb! ye bells, nor wake the frosty air
With joyful clamor while the nations bleed;
Let sorrow's silence speak a people's prayer
Whose legion'd sons lie crucified by greed.


Be dumb, sweet bells: or ring more wild and clear,
Proclaim a sunrise on youth's Calvary!
Ring out the madness with the dying year,—
Let nations pass so Man himself be free!


THE RED COUNTRY

BY WILLIAM ROSE BENÉT

In the red country
The sky flowers
All day.
Strange mechanical birds
With struts of wire and glazed wings
Cross the impassive sky
Which burgeons ever and again
With ephemeral unfolding flowers,
White and yellow and brown,
That spread and dissolve.
And smaller rapid droning birds go by,
And bright metallic bees whose sting is death.


Behind the hills,
Behind the whispering woods whose leaves are falling
Yellow and red to cover the red clay,
Misshapen monsters squat with wide black maws
Gulping smoke and belching flame.
From the mirk reed beds of the age of coal,
Wallowing out of their sleep in the earlier slime,
They are resurrected and stagger forth to slay—
The prehistoric Beasts we thought were dead.


They are blinded with long sleep,
But men with clever weapons
Goad them to fresh pastures.
Beside still waters
They drink of blood and neigh a horrible laughter,
And their ponderous tread shakes happy cities down,
And the thresh of their flail-like tails
Makes acres smolder and smoke
Blackened of golden harvest.


The Beasts are back,
And men, in their spreading shadow,
Inhale the odor of their nauseous breath.
Inebriate with it they fashion other gods
Than the gods of day-dream.
Of iron and steel are little images
Made of the Beasts.
And men rush forth and fling themselves for ritual
Before these gods, before the lumbering Beasts,—
And some make long obeisance.


Umber and violet flowers of the sky,
The sun, like a blazing Mars, clanks across the blue
And plucks you to fashion into a nosegay
To offer Venus, his old-time paramour.
And now she shrinks
And pales
Like Cynthia, her more ascetic sister ...
Vulcan came to her arms in the grimy garb
Of toil, he smelt of the forge and the racketing workshop,
But not of blood.
And, if she smells these flowers, they bubble ruby blood
That trickles between her fingers.
Yet is a dream flowing over the red country,
Yet is a light growing, for all the black furrows of the red country ...
The machines are foe or friend
As the world desires.
The Beasts shall sleep again.
And in that sleep, when the land is twilight-still
And men take thought among the frozen waves of the dead,
The Sowers go forth once more,
Sowers of vision, sowers of the seed
Of peace or war.
Shall it be peace indeed?
Great shadowy figures moving from hill to hill
Of tangled bodies, with rhythmic stride and cowled averted head,
What do you sow with hands funereal—
New savageries imperial,
Unthinking pomps for arrogant, witless men?
Or seed for the people in strong democracy?
What do you see
With your secret eyes, and sow for us, that we must reap again?


THE WHITE COMRADE

BY ROBERT HAVEN SCHAUFFLER

Under our curtain of fire,
Over the clotted clods,
We charged, to be withered, to reel
And despairingly wheel
When the signal bade us retire
From the terrible odds.


As we ebbed with the battle-tide,
Fingers of red-hot steel
Suddenly closed on my side.
I fell, and began to pray.
I crawled on my hands and lay
Where a shallow crater yawned wide;
Then,—I swooned....


When I woke it yet was day.
Fierce was the pain of my wound;
But I knew it was death to stir,
For fifty paces away
Their trenches were.
In torture I prayed for the dark
And the stealthy step of my friend
Who, staunch to the very end,
Would creep to the danger-zone
And offer his life as a mark
To save my own.


Night came. I heard his tread,—
Not stealthy, but firm and serene,
As if my comrade's head
Were lifted far from that scene
Of passion and pain and dread;
As if my comrade's heart
In carnage had no part;
As if my comrade's feet
Were set on some radiant street
Such as no darkness could haunt;
As if my comrade's eyes
No deluge of flame could surprise,
No death and destruction daunt,
No red-beaked bird dismay,
Nor sight of decay.


Then, in the bursting shells' dim light,
I saw he was clad in white.
For a moment I thought that I saw the smock
Of a shepherd in search of his flock.
Alert were the enemy, too,
And their bullets flew
Straight at a mark no bullet might fail;
For the seeker was tall and his robe was bright;
But he did not flee nor quail.
Instead, with unhurrying stride,
He came,
Still as the white star low in the west,
And gathering my tall frame,
Like a child to his breast....


Again I slept;—and awoke
From a blissful dream
In a cave by a stream.
My silent comrade had bound my side.
No pain was mine, but a wish that I spoke,—
A mastering wish to serve this man
Who had ventured through hell my doom to revoke,
As only the truest of comrades can.
I begged him to tell how best I might aid him,
And urgently prayed him
Never to leave me, whatever betide;
When I saw he was hurt—
Shot through the hands that were joined in prayer!
Then, as the dark drops gathered there
And fell in the dirt,
The wounds of my friend
Seemed to me such as no man might bear;
Those bullet-holes in the patient hands
Seemed to transcend
All horrors that ever these war-drenched lands
Had known or would know till the mad world's end.
Then suddenly I was aware
That his feet had been wounded, too,
And dimming the white of his side
A dull stain grew.
"You are hurt, White Comrade!" I cried.
Already his words I foreknew:
"These are old wounds," said he,
"But of late they have troubled me."

  1. From The Amaroc News, published by soldiers of the American Army of Occupation, Coblentz, Germany, July, 1921.