Soldier poets, songs of the fighting men/Joseph Courtney

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JOSEPH COURTNEY

Lieut., R.A.M.C.

 

"As the Leaves Fall"

Autumn, 1916

AND the leaves fall . . .
The silver and the golden fall together,
A-mingled irresistibly like tears.


The low-branched elms stand idly
In all the full-leaved glory of their life:
Yet here and there a yellow flake slips slowly,
And the branch, where once it hung, lies bare.
Below they lie—the golden fruits of day.
And a soft spirit of the night
Weaves the white spell of sleep about their feet.


And the leaves fall . . .
The great sleep of the trees is nigh:
The flowers are dead.
Yet through the fine-spun web of mist
Gleams faintly Michael's pale blue star. . . .
A time of sad soul-hunger, unspeakable desire,
That clutches at the heart and drags the soul!


And the leaves fall. . . .
Is there a far faint life
Whispers with blood-choked voice thy name?
Whispers but once—no more?
Then weep ye now, O Mothers!
And, Maidens, weep!
O England, rend the raiment of thy wealth:
Tear the soft vesture of thy pride!
Let the tears fall and be not comforted!
In all their youth they went for thee;
In all their strength they died for thee;
And so they fell,
As the leaves fall. . . . .


Yet they say you are dead?
Ask of the trees. Perchance they hear
A distant murmuring of pulsing sap.
Perchance in their dim minds they see
Pale curlèd leaves that strive to greet the sun.
Perchance they know of yellow daffodils
Will dance again.


Yet the leaves fall . . .
And yonder through the mist is Michael's star—
Saint Michael with his angel-host!
Ay! see them as they sweep along
Borne on an unseen wind to the far throne of God.
And, Mothers, see; O Maidens, look
How the world's Christ stoops down and kisses each.
And listen now and hear their cry,
As, lances raised, they greet their King—
"There is no death . . . There is no death . . .
No death . . ." and comfort you,
When the leaves fall.