Soldier poets, songs of the fighting men/Wilfrid J. Halliday

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Private, 13th Battalion, West Yorks. Regiment


The Grave

THEY dug his grave by lantern light,
A nameless German boy:
A remnant from that hurried flight,
Lost, wounded, left in hapless plight
For carrion to destroy.
They thought him dead at first until
They felt the heart's slow beat:
So calm he lay, serene and still,
It seemed a butchery to kill
An innocence so sweet.

A movement of his lips, maybe
To call his mother there:
A tear, a smile of victory—
Then easeful death proclaimed him free,
Free from a tyrant's care.

Somewhere a mother droops and sighs
For tidings long delayed:
Somewhere a sister mourns and cries
For him who in that cold grave lies,
Dug by the foeman's spade.


The Awakening

O I have watched God's fairest things
And heard sweet nature's melody;
Have felt the thrill that Pity brings
And sailed in tears its weed-strewn sea.
As blithe as any summer's day
I leapt for joy to suck the sweet
Of sunshine, dingle, meadow'd hay,
And all the treasures at my feet.

But now tho' banished far from these,
In grosser places turned and tossed,
I feel a purer, nobler ease,
New heather ways have now been crossed.
A something steals upon my breast
Whene'er I watch night's jewels shine:
It whispers "He has seen the test,
And thou wast faithful—Joy be thine!"

O Pride of Pride! how couldst thou see
That inner ray when half thy gaze
Was fixed on self, not pure and free,
But dimly peering through a haze?
And then I threw the bonds aside,
For thee, My Country, call'd to fight.
Forlorn, forgotten, self-defied,
1 know that I have seen the light.


The Red Cross

'MID the might of battle's roar
And the groans of maimed and dying;
'Mid the welter and the gore
And the hiss of bullets flying,
Like an angel, calm and brave
Goes the Red Cross Knight to save.

'Mid the deadly shrapnel hail
And the sniper's sullen firing;
'Mid the carnage and the wail
Of the stricken and expiring,
Like a mother, calm and brave
Goes the Red Cross Knight to save.

'Mid the sleet and driving rain
And the biting, stinging frost;
'Mid the mangled and the slain
And the terrors of the lost,
Like a hero, calm and brave
Goes the Red Cross Knight to save.

What of him do writers tell?
What reward for sacrifice?
Nought but "Truly ye did well,"
And in that his guerdon lies.
But the wounded, knowing, crave
For your love. Go forth to save.


The Gleam

I SEE, I feel, I sometimes know
And penetrate the soul of things.
I've sipped of streams that sometimes flow
From mystic, unimagined things.

For one brief moment have I strayed
In pastures clothed in sparkling dew,
And fed on fruits the gods have laid
Of wondrous taste and goodly hue.

Heaven judge my soul by that brief bliss
And pity me that I am lost
So oft in clay, and seem to miss
The path that beckoning gleam has crossed.



NO longer art, but artifice,
No unrefracted ray:
No streamings from the infinite,
No rough, inspired way:
No motive selfless, free from taint,
But "will it pay?"

The charlatan ascends the rock
Where prophets stood of yore;
The shallow cynic dons the garb
That Trust and Honour wore,
And viperous scorn stands sentinel
Beside Truth's half-shut door.

Say, Spirit, what this England needs.
Is it a common foe?
Must we through tears be led to smiles,
To happiness through woe?
Shall blood of slaughtered sons buy grace?
Then, England, let it flow.