More songs by the fighting men. Soldiers poets: second series/Walter Lightowler Wilkinson

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Lieut., 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

(Killed on Vimy Ridge, April 9, 1917)


A Lament from the Dead

PEACE! Vex us not: we are Dead,
We are the Dead for England slain.
(O England and the English Spring,
The English Spring, the Spring-tide rain:
Ah, God, dear God, in England now!) . . .
Peace! Vex us not: we are the Dead;
The snows of Death are on our brow:
 Peace! Vex us not!

Brothers, the footfalls of the year
(The Maiden month's in England now!) . . .
I feel them pass above my head:
Alas, they echo on my heart!
(Ah, God, dear God, but England now!) . . .
Peace! vex me not, for I am dead;
The snows of Death are on my brow:
 Peace! Vex me not!

Brothers, and I—I taste again,
Again I taste the Wine of Spring.
(O Wine of Spring and Bread of Love,
O lips that kiss and mouths that sing:
Love and Spring in England now!) . . .
Peace! Vex me not, but pass above:
Sweet English Love, fleet English Spring—
 Pass! Vex me not!

Brothers, my brothers, I pray you—hark!
I hear a song upon the wing,
Upon the silver wing of morn:
It is—dear God! it is the lark—
It is the lark above the corn,
The fledgling corn of England's Spring! . . .
Ah! pity thou my wearied heart:
 Cease! Vex me not!

  * * *

Brothers, I beg you be at rest,
Be quite at rest for England's sake:
The flowerful hours in England now
Sing low your sleep to English ears:
And would ye have your sorrows wake
The Mother's heart to further tears? . . .
Nay! be at peace, her loyal dead
 Sleep! Vex her not!


The Wayside Burial

"THEY'RE bringing in their recent dead—their recent dead!
I see the shoulder badge: a "Southern crush."
How small he looks—(O damn that singing thrush!)
Not give foot five from boots to battered head! . . .
Give him a kindly burial, my friends,—
So much is due, when some such loyal life ends!
"For Country!" . . . Ay, and so our brave do die:
Comrade unknown, good rest to you!—Good-bye!

They're bringing their recent dead! No pomp, no show:
A dingy khaki crowd—his friends, his own.
I, too, would like—(God, how that wind does moan!)—
To be laid down by friends: it's sweetest so!
A young life, as I take it; just a lad—
(How cold it blows; and that grey sky, how sad!)—
And yet: "For Country"—so a man should die:
Comrade unknown, good rest to you!—Good-bye!

They're burying their dead!—I wonder now:
A wife?—or mother? Mother it must be—
In some trim home that fronts the English sea.
(A sea-coast country: that the badges show.)
And she?—I sense her grief, I feel her tears!
"This, then, the garnered harvest of my years!"
And he? . . . "For Country, dear, a man must die!"
Comrade unknown, good rest to you!—Good-bye!

It's reeded: he is buried! Comrade, sleep!
A wooden cross at your brave head will stand.
A cross of wood? A Calvary!—The Land
For whose sake you laid down sweet life, will keep
Watch, lad, and ward that none may bring to shame.
That Name for which you died! . . . "What's in a name"?—
England shall answer! You will hear Her cry:
"Well done, my own! my son—good rest: Good-bye!"

 B.E.F., France, 4.3.17.


At Last Post

COME home!—Come home! 
The winds are at rest in the restful trees;
At rest are the waves of the sundown seas;
And home—they're home—
The wearied hearts and the broken lives—
 At home! At ease!

 B.E.F., France.


Night in War Time

NIGHT and night's menace: Death hath forged a dart
Of every moment's pause and stealthy pass:
Blind Terror reigns: darkly, as in a glass,
Man's wondering Soul beholds his fearful Heart,
And questions, and is shaken: and, apart,
Light Chance, the harlot-goddess, holding Mass,
Scatters her favours broadcast on the grass
As might a drunkard spill his wares in mart!

Time and sweet Order have forsaken men,
So near Eternal seems the Night's foul sway:
We ask of Life: "Has Chaos come again,
With Ruin, and Confusion, and Decay?"
Yet slowly, surely darkness dies: and then,
Out of the deep night's menace, dawns the Day!

 B.E.F., France, January 25th, 1917.