The Guards Came Through, and Other Poems
The Guards Came Through
And other Poems
The Guards Came Through
MEN of the Twenty-first, Up by the Chalk Pit Wood, Weak from our wounds and our thirst.
Wanting our sleep and our food After a day and a night.
God ! shall I ever forget ? Beaten and broke in the fight,
But sticking it, sticking it yet. Trying to hold the line,
Fainting and spent and done ; Always the thud and the whine.
Always the yell of the Hun. Northumberland, Lancaster, York,
Durham and Somerset, Fighting alone, worn to the bone.
But sticking it, sticking it yet.
Never a message of hope.
Never a word of cheer, Fronting Hill 70's shell-swept slope.
With the dull, dead plain in our rear ; Always the shriek of the shell.
Always the roar of the burst. Always the tortures of Hell,
As waiting and wincing we cursed
Our luck, the guns, and the Boche.
When our Corporal shouted " Stand to ! " And I hear some one cry, " Clear the front for the Guards ! "—
And the Guards came through.
Our throats they were parched and hot,
But, Lord ! if you'd heard the cheer, Irish, Welsh and Scot,
Coldstream and Grenadier — Two Brigades, if you please.
Dressing as straight as a hem. We, we were down on our knees.
Praying for us and for them. Praying with tear-wet cheek.
Praying with outstretched hand. Lord ! I could speak for a week.
But how could you understand ? How could your cheeks be wet ?
Such feelin's don't come to you ; But how can me or my mates forget
How the Guards came through ?
" Five yards left extend ! "
It passed from rank to rank. And line after line, with never a bend,
And a touch of the London swank. A trifle of swank and dash.
Cool as a home parade. Twinkle, glitter and flash.
Flinching never a shade.
With the shrapnel right in their face,
Doing their Hyde Park stunt, Swinging along at an easy pace.
Arms at the trail, eyes front. Man ! it was great to see !
Man ! it was great to do ! It's a cot, and hospital ward for me. But I'll tell them in Blighty wherever I be,
How the Guards came through.
HOW was it then with England ?
Her faith was true to her plighted word,
Her strong hand closed on her blunted sword,
Her heart rose high to the foeman's hate,
She walked with God on the hills of Fate —
And all was well with England.
How was it then with England ?
Her soul was wrung with loss and pain.
Her face was grey with her heart's-blood drain.
But her falcon eyes were hard and bright.
Austere and cold as an ice-cave's light —
And all was well with England.
How was it then with England ?
Little she said to foe or friend,
True, heart true, to the uttermost end.
Her passion cry was the scathe she wrought,
In flame and steel she voiced her thought —
And all was well with England.
How was it then with England ?
With drooping sword and bended head,
She turned apart and mourned her dead,
Sad sky above, sad earth beneath,
She walked with God in the Vale of Death —
Ah, woe the day for England !
How is it now with England ?
She sees upon her mist-girt path
Dim drifting shapes of fear and wrath.
Hold high the heart ! Bend low the knee !
She has been guided, and will be —
And all is well with England.
WHERE are those others?— the men who stood
In the first wild spate of the German flood,
And paid full price with their heart's best blood
For the saving of you and me :
French's Contemptibles, haggard and lean,
Allenby's lads of the cavalry screen.
Gunners who fell in Battery L,
And Guardsmen of Landrecies ?
Where are those others who fought and fell,
Outmanned, outgunned and scant of shell,
On the deadly curve of the Ypres hell,
Barring the coast to the last ?
Where are our laddies who died out there,
From Poelcapelle to Festubert,
When the days grew short and the poplars bare
In the cold November blast ?
For us their toil and for us their pain.
The sordid ditch in the sodden plain.
The Flemish fog and the driving rain.
The cold that cramped and froze ;
The weary night, the chill bleak day,
When earth was dark and sky was grey.
And the ragged weeds in the dripping clay
Were all God's world to those.
Where are those others in this glad time,
When the standards wave and the joybells chime.
And London stands with outstretched hands
Waving her children in ?
Athwart our joy still comes the thought -*
Of the dear dead boys, whose lives have bought
All that sweet victory has brought
To us who lived to win.
To each his dreams, and mine to me.
But as the shadows fall I see
That ever-glorious company —
The men who bide out there.
Rifleman, Highlander, Fusilier,
Airman and Sapper and Grenadier,
With flaunting banner and wave and cheer,
They flow through the darkening air.
And yours are there, and so are mine,
Rank upon rank and line on line,
With smiling lips and eyes that shine,
And bearing proud and high.
Past they go with their measured tread,
These are the victors, these — the dead !
Ah, sink the knee and bare the head
As the hallowed host goes by !
Haig is Moving
August 191 8
HAIG is moving ! Three plain words are all that matter, Mid the gossip and the chatter, Hopes in speeches, fears in papers. Pessimistic froth and vapours —
Haig is moving !
Haig is moving ! We can turn from German scheming, From humanitarian dreaming. From assertions, contradictions. Twisted facts and solemn fictions —
Haig is moving !
Haig is moving ! All the weary idle phrases. Empty blamings, empty praises. Here's an end to their recital. There is only one thing vital —
Haig is moving 1
Haig is moving ! He is moving, he is gaining, And the whole hushed world is straining, Straining, yearning, for the vision Of the doom and the decision —
Haig is moving !
The Guns in Sussex
LIGHT green of grass and richer green of bush Slope upwards to the darkest green of fir. How still ! How deathly still ! And yet the hush
Shivers and trembles with some subtle stir, Some far-off throbbing like a muffled drum,
Beaten in broken rhythm oversea, To play the last funereal march of some Who die to-day that Europe may be free.
The deep-blue heaven, curving from the green.
Spans with its shimmering arch the flowery zone ; In all God's earth there is no gentler scene.
And yet I hear that awesome monotone. Above the circling midge's piping shrill,
And the long droning of the questing bee, Above all sultry summer sounds, it still
Mutters its ceaseless menaces to me.
And as I listen, all the garden fair
Darkens to plains of misery and death,
And, looking past the roses, I see there
Those sordid furrows with the rising breath
Of all things foul and black. My heart is hot
Within me as I view it, and I cry,
" Better the misery of these men's lot Than all the peace that comes to such as I ! "
And strange that in the pauses of the sound
I hear the children's laughter as they roam, And then their mother calls, and all around
Rise up the gentle murmurs of a home. But still I gaze afar, and at the sight
My whole soul softens to its heart-felt prayer, " Spirit of Justice, Thou for whom they fight.
Ah, turn in mercy to our lads out there !
" The froward peoples have deserved Thy wrath,
And on them is the Judgment as of old. But if they wandered from the hallowed path
Yet is their retribution manifold. Behold all Europe writhing on the rack,
The sins of fathers grinding down the sons ! How long, Lord ? " He sends no answer back.
But still I hear the mutter of the guns.
PUSH on, my Lord of Wiirtemberg, across the Flemish Fen ! See where the lure of Ypres calls you ! There's just one ragged British line of Plumer's weary
men ; It's true they held you off before, but venture it again. Come, try your luck, whatever fate befalls you !
You've been some little time, my Lord. Perhaps you scarce remember The far-off early days of that resistance. Was it in October last ? Or was it in November ? And now the leaves are turning and you stand in mid- September Still staring at the Belfry in the distance.
Can you recall the fateful day — a day of drifting skies,
When you started on the famous Calais onset ? Can it be the War-Lord blundered when he urged the
enterprise ? For surely it's a weary while since first before your eyes That old Belfry rose against the sunset.
You held council at your quarters when the budding Alexanders And the Pickel-haubed Caesars gave their reasons. Was there one amongst that bristle-headed circle of
commanders Ever ventured the opinion that a little town of Flanders Would hold you pounded here through all the seasons ?
You all clasped hands upon it. You would break the British line, You would smash a road to westward with your host, The howitzers should thunder and the Uhlan lances shine Till Calais heard the blaring of the distant " Wacht am Rhein," As you topped the grassy uplands of the coast. Said the Graf von Feuer-Essen, " It's a fact beyond dis- cussion, That man to man we can outfight the foe. There is valour in the French, there is patience in the
Russian, But blend all war-like virtues and you get the lordly Prussian," And the bristle-headed murmured, " Das ist so.^^
" And the British," cried another, " they are mercenary cattle, Without one noble impulse of the soul, Degenerate and drunken ; if the dollars chink and rattle, 'Tis the only sort of music that will call them to the battle." And all the bristle-headed cried, " Ja wohl J "
And so next day your battle rolled across the Menin Plain, Where Capper's men stood lonely to your wrath. You broke him, and you broke him, but you broke him
all in vain. For he and his contemptibles kept closing up again, And the khaki bar was still across your path.
And on the day when Gheluvelt lay smoking in the sun. When Von Deimling stormed so hotly in the van, You smiled as Haig reeled backwards and you thought
him on the run. But, alas for dreams that vanish, for before the day was done It was you, my Lord of Wiirtemberg, that ran.
A dreary day was that — but another came, more dreary,
When the Guard from Arras led your fierce attacks, Spruce and splendid in the morning were the Potsdam
Grenadiere, But not so spruce that evening when they staggered spent and weary. With those cursed British storming at their backs.
You knew — your spies had told you — that the ranks were scant and thin, That the guns were short of shell and very few, By all Bernhardi's maxims you were surely bound to win.
There's the open town before you. Haste, my Lord, and enter in, Or the War-Lord may have telegrams for you.
Then came the rainy winter, when the price was ever dearer. Every time you neared the prize of which you dreamed, Each day the Belfry faced you but you never brought
it nearer. Each night you saw it clearly but you never saw it clearer. Ah, what a weary time it must have seemed !
At last there came the Easter when you loosed the coward gases. Surely you have got the rascals now ! You could see them spent and choking as you watched
them thro' your glasses. Yes, they choke, but never waver, and again the moment passes Without one leaf of laurel for your brow.
Then at Hooge you had them helpless, for their guns were one to ten. And you blasted trench and traverse at your will, You had them dead and buried — but they still sprang up
again. " Donnerwetter I " cried your Lordship, " Donnerwetter I " cried your men, For their very ghosts were guarding Ypres still.
Active, Guards, Reserve — men of every corps and name
That the bugles of the War-Lord muster in, Each in turn you tried them, but the story was the
same ; Play it how you would, my Lord, you never won the game, No, never in a twelvemonth did you win.
A year, my Lord of Wiirtemberg — a year, or nearly so, Since first you faced the British vis-d-vis !
Your learned Commandanten are the men who ought to know.
But to ordinary mortals it would seem a trifle slow, If you really mean to travel to the sea.
If you cannot straf the British, since they strafen you so well. You can safely smash the town that lies ^ near, So it's down with arch and buttress, down with belfry
and with bell, And it's hoch the seven-seven that can drop the petrol shell On the shrines that pious hands have loved to rear !
Fair Ypres was a relic of the soul of other days,
A poet's dream, a wanderer's delight. We will keep it as a symbol of your brute Teutonic ways That millions yet unborn may come and curse you as they gaze
At this token of your impotence and spite.
For shame, my Lord of Wiirtemberg ! Across the Flemish Fen See where the little army calls you. It's just the old familiar line of fifty thousand men, They've beat you once or twice, my Lord, but venture it again, Come, try your luck, whatever fate befalls you.
" The army swore terribly in Flanders."
WHAT do the soldiers say ? "Dam! Dam! Dam! I don't mind cold, I don't mind heat, Over the top for a Sunday treat. With Fritz I'll always take my spell. But I want my grub, and where in hell Is the jam ? "
What does the officer say ?
" Dam ! Dam ! Dam ! Mud and misery, flies and stench, Piggin' it here in a beastly trench, But what I mean, by Jove, you see, I like my men and they don't mind me. So, on the whole, I'd rather be
Where I am."
What does the enemy say ?
" Kolossal Verdam ! They told me, when the war began. The British Tommy always ran, And so he does, just as they said, But, Donnerwetter ! it's straight ahead
Like a ram."
What does the public say ?
" Dam ! Dam ! Dam ! They tax me here, they tax me there, Bread is dear and the cupboard bare, I'm bound to grouse, but if it's the way To win the war, why then I'll pay
Like a lamb."
The Volunteer (1914-1919)
THE dreams are passed and gone, old man, That came to you and me, Of a six days' stunt on an east coast front, And the Hun with his back to the sea.
Lord, how we worked and swotted sore To be fit when the day should come !
Four years, my lad, and five months more. Since first we followed the drum.
Though " Follow the drum " is a bit too grand,
For we ran to no such frills ; It was just the whistles of Nature's band
That heartened us up the hills.
That and the toot of the corporal's flute.
Until he could blow no more. And the lilt of " Sussex by the Sea,"
The marching song of the corps.
Those hills ! My word, you would soon get fit,
Be you ever so stale and slack. If you pad it with rifle and marching kit
To Rotherfield Hill and back !
Drills in hall, and drills outdoors,
And drills of every type. Till we wore our boots with forming fours.
And our coats with " Shoulder hipe ! "
No glory ours, no swank, no pay,
One dull eventless grind ; Find yourself, and nothing a day
Were the terms that the old boys signed.
Just drill and march and drill again,
And swot at the old parade. But they got two hundred thousand men ; Not bad for the old brigade !
A good two hundred thousand came, On the chance of that east coast fight ;
They may have been old and stiff and lame. But, by George, their hearts were right !
Discipline ! My ! " Eyes right ! " they cried,
As we passed the drill hall door, And left it at that — so we marched cock-eyed
From three to half-past four.
And solid ! Why, after a real wet bout
In a hole in the Flanders mud. It would puzzle the Boche to fetch us out.
For we couldn't get out if we would !
Some think we could have stood war's test,
Some say that we could not, But a chap can only do his best,
And offer all he's got.
Fall out, the guard ! The old home guard !
Pile arms ! Right turn ! Dismiss ! No grousing, even if it's hard
To break our ranks like this.
We can't show much in the way of fun For four and a half years gone ;
If we'd had our chance — just one ! just one !- Carry on, old Sport, carry on !
The Night Patrol
BEHIND me on the darkened pier They crowd and chatter, man and maid, A coon-song gently strikes the ear,
A flapper giggles in the shade. There where the in-turned lantern gleams
It shines on khaki and on brass ; Across its yellow slanting beams
The arm-locked lovers slowly pass.
Out in the darkness one far light
Throbs like a pulse, and fades away — Some signal on the guarded Wight,
From Helen's Point to Bembridge Bay. An eastern wind blows chill and raw.
Cheerless and black the waters lie, And as I gaze athwart the haze,
I see the night patrol go by.
Creeping shadows blur the gloom, Thicken and darken, pass and fade ;
Again and yet again they loom.
One ruby spark above each shade —
Twelve ships in all ! They glide so near, One hears the wave the fore-foot curled,
And yet to those upon the pier
They seem some other sterner world.
The coon-song whimpers to a wail.
The treble laughter sinks and dies, The lovers cluster on the rail,
With whispered words and straining eyes. One hush of awe, and then once more
The vision fades for them and me, And there is laughter on the shore,
And silent duty on the sea.
The Bugles of Canada
[In war time a Canadian Division was encamped near my house. I used to fashion their bugle calls into the names of their distant land. Hence these verses.]
THE Farmer in the morning Stood with slanted head, In the wintry dawning
By the milking-shed ; From the camp behind the hill He could hear the bugles shrill,
" We are here ! We are here !
Soldiers all ! Good cheer ! We are near ! Ontario ! Ontario !
Toronto ! Montreal ! "
Petherick, the Huntsman grey,
Rheumatic, bent and blind. Wheezed his joy as far away
He heard it in the wind. " Hark the Hounds ! Hark the Hounds ! "
Nay, it is the bugle sounds,
" We are here ! We are here 1
Soldiers all ! Good cheer ! We are near !
Ontario ! Ontario !
Toronto ! Montreal ! "
Lonely folk and fearful
Rose above their fears ; Mothers, sad and tearful,
Were smiling through their tears ; 'Neath the cloudy English sky They heard the cheering bugles cry,
" We are here ! We are here !
Soldiers all ! We are near ! Good cheer ! Ontario ! Ontario ! Toronto ! Montreal ! "
When the dusk was falling, And the lamps alight, You could hear them calling
In the misty night. And old Sussex heard and blessed The kindly greeting from the west,
" We are here ! We are here !
Soldiers all ! We are near ! Good cheer ! Ontario ! Ontario !
Toronto ! Montreal !
The Wreck on Loch McGarry
IF you should search all Scotland round, The mainland, skerries, and the islands, A grimmer spot could not be found Than Loch McGarry in the Highlands.
Pent in by frowning mountains high,
It stretches silent as the tomb, Turbid and thick its waters lie,
No eye can pierce their yellow gloom.
'Twas here that on a summer day Four tourists hired a crazy wherry ;
No warning voices bade them stay. As they pushed out on Loch McGarry.
McFarlane, Chairman of the Board,
A grim hard-fisted son of lucre. His thoughts were ever on his hoard.
And life a money-game, like Euchre.
Bob Ainslie, late of London Town, A spruce young butterfly of fashion,
A wrinkle in his dressing-gown
Would rouse an apoplectic passion.
John Waters, John the self-absorbed, With thoughts for ever inward bent.
Complacent, self-contained, self-orbed, Wrapped in eternal self-content.
Lastly coquettish Mrs. Wild,
Chattering, rowdy, empty-headed ;
At sight of her the whole world smiled. Except the wretch whom she had wedded.
Such were the four who sailed that day. To the Highlands each a stranger ;
Sunlit and calm the wide loch lay. With not a hint of coming danger.
Drifting they watched the heather hue. The waters and the cliffs that bound them
The air was still, the sky was blue. Deceitful peace lay all around them.
McFarlane pondered on the stocks, John Waters on his own perfection,
Bob Ainslie's thoughts were on his socks, And Mrs. Wild's on her complexion.
When sudden — oh, that dreadful scream !
That cry from panic fear begotten ! The boat is gaping in each seam.
The worn-out planks are old and rotten.
With two small oars they work and strain,
A long mile from the nearer shore They cease — their efforts are in vain ;
She's sinking fast, and all is o'er.
The yellow water, thick as pap.
Is crawling, crawling to the thwarts,
And as they mark its upward lap, So fear goes crawling up their hearts.
Slowly, slowly, thick as pap.
The creeping yellow waters rise ; Like drowning mice within a trap.
They stare around with frantic eyes.
Ah, how clearly they could see
Every sin and shame and error ! How they vowed that saints they'd be.
If delivered from this terror !
How they squirmed and how they squealed !
How they shouted for assistance ! How they fruitlessly appealed
To the shepherds in the distance !
How they sobbed and how they moaned, As the waters kept encroaching !
How they wept and stormed and groaned. As they saw their fate approaching !
And they vowed each good resolve Should be permanent as granite,
Never, never, to dissolve,
Firm and lasting like our planet.
See them sit, aghast and shrinking !
Surely it could not be true ! " Oh, have mercy ! Oh, we're sinking !
Oh, good Lord, what shall we do ! "
Ah, it's coming ! Now she founders !
See the crazy wherry reel ! Downward to the rocks she flounders —
Just one foot beneath her keel !
In the shallow, turbid water Lay the saving reef below.
Oh, the waste of high emotion ! Oh, the useless fear and woe !
Late that day four sopping tourists To their quarters made their way,
And the brushes of Futurists
Scarce could paint their disarray.
And with half-amused compassion They were viewed from the hotel,
From the pulp-clad beau of fashion, To the saturated belle.
But a change was in their features, And that change has come to tarry,
For they all are altered creatures Since the wreck on Loch McGarry.
Now McFarlane never utters
Any talk of bills or bullion, But continually mutters
Texts from Cyril or Tertullian.
As to Ainslie, he's not caring
How the new-cut collar lies, And has been detected wearing
Dinner-jackets with white ties.
Waters, who had never thought
In his life of others' needs. Has most generously bought
A nursing-home for invalids.
And the lady — ah, the lady !
She has turned from paths of sin, And her husband's face so shady
Now is brightened by a grin.
So misfortunes of to-day
Are the blessings of to-morrow. And the wisest cannot say «
What is joy and what is sorrow.
If your soul is arable
You can start this seed within it, And my tiny parable
May just help you to begin it.
THE foolish Roman fondly thought That gods must be the same to all. Each alien idol might be brought
Within their broad Pantheon Hall. The vision of a jealous Jove
Was far above their feeble ken ; They had no Lord who gave them love, But scowled upon all other men.
But in our dispensation bright,
What noble progress have we made ! We know that we are in the light,
And outer races in the shade. Our kindly creed ensures us this —
That Turk and infidel and Jew Are safely banished from the bliss
That's guaranteed to me and you.
The Roman mother understood
That, if the babe upon her breast Untimely died, the gods were good,
And the child's welfare manifest. With tender guides the soul would go
And there, in some Elysian bower, The tiny bud plucked here below
Would ripen to the perfect flower. Poor simpleton ! Our faith makes plain
That, if no blest baptismal word Has cleared the babe, it bears the stain
Which faithless Adam had incurred. How philosophical an aim !
How wise and well-conceived a plan Which holds the new-born babe to blame
For all the sins of early man !
Nay, speak not of its tender grace,
But hearken to our dogma wise : Guilt lies behind that dimpled face,
And sin looks out from gentle eyes. Quick, quick, the water and the bowl !
Quick with the words that lift the load ! Oh, hasten, ere that tiny soul
Shall pay the debt old Adam owed !
The Roman thought the souls that erred
Would linger in some nether gloom. But somewhere, sometime, would be spared
To find some peace beyond the tomb. In those dark halls, enshadowed, vast,
They flitted ever, sad and thin, Mourning the unforgotten past
Until they shed the taint of sin.
And Pluto brooded over all
Within that land of night and fear,
Enthroned in some dark Judgment Hall, A god himself, reserved, austere.
How thin and colourless and tame !
Compare our nobler scheme with it, The howling souls, the leaping flame,
And all the tortures of the pit !
Foolish half-hearted Roman hell !
To us is left the higher thought Of that eternal torture cell
Whereto the sinner shall be brought. Out with the thought that God could share
Our weak relenting pity sense, Or ever condescend to spare
The wretch who gave Him just offence !
'Tis just ten thousand years ago
Since the vile sinner left his clay, And yet no pity can he know,
For as he lies in hell to-day So when ten thousand years have run
Still shall he lie in endless night. O God of Love ! Holy One !
Have we not read Thy ways aright ?
The godly man in heaven shall dwell.
And live in joy before the throne. Though somewhere down in nether hell
His wife or children writhe and groan. From his bright Empyrean height
He sees the reek from that abyss — What Pagan ever dreamed a sight
So holy and sublime as this !
Poor foolish folk ! Had they begun
To weigh the myths that they professed, One hour of reason and each one
Would surely stand a fraud confessed. Pretending to believe each deed
Of Theseus or of Hercules, With fairy tales of Ganymede,
And gods of rocks and gods of trees !
No, no, had they our purer light
They would have learned some saner tale Of Balaam's ass, or Samson's might,
Or prophet Jonah and his whale. Of talking serpents and their ways.
Through which our foolish parents strayed. And how there passed three nights and days
Before the sun or moon was made !
O Bigotry, you crowning sin !
All evil that a man can do Has earthly bounds, nor can begin
To match the mischief done by you — You, who would force the source of love
To play your small sectarian part, And mould the mercy from above
To fit your own contracted heart.
The Athabasca Trail
MY life is gliding downwards, it speeds swifter to the day When it shoots the last dark canon to the Plains of
Far-away, But while its stream is running through the years that
are to be, The mighty voice of Canada will ever call to me. I shall hear the roar of rivers where the rapids foam and
tear, I shall smell the virgin upland with its balsam-laden air, And shall dream that I am riding down the winding
woody vale With the packer and the packhorse on the Athabasca
I have passed the warden cities at the Eastern water- gate
Where the hero and the martyr laid the corner stone of State,
The habitant, coureur-des-bois, and hardy voyageur —
Where lives a breed more strong at need to venture or endure I
I have seen the gorge of Erie where the roaring waters
run, I have crossed the Inland Ocean, lying golden in the sun, But the last and best and sweetest is the ride by hill
and dale With the packer and the packhorse on the Athabasca
I'll dream again of fields of grain that stretch from sky
to sky And the little prairie hamlets where the cars go roaring
Wooden hamlets as I saw them — noble cities still to be, To girdle stately Canada with gems from sea to sea. Mother of a mighty manhood, land of glamour and of
hope. From the eastward sea-swept islands to the sunny
western slope, Ever more my heart is with you, ever more till life shall
fail I'll be out with pack and packer on the Athabasca Trail.
[" During the catastrophe the band of the Titanic played negro melodies and ragtime until the last moment, when they broke into a hymn." — ^Daily Paper.]
RAGTIME ! Ragtime ! Keep it going still ! Let them hear the ragtime ! Play it with a will | Women in the lifeboats, men upon the wreck, Take heart to hear the ragtime lilting down the deck.
Ragtime ! Ragtime ! Yet another tune !
Now the " Darkey Dandy," now " The Yellow Coon ! "
Brace against the bulwarks if the stand's askew,
Find your footing as you can, but keep the music true !
There's glowing hell beneath us where the shattered
boilers roar. The ship is listing and awash, the boats will hold no
more ! There's nothing more that you can do, and nothing you
can mend. Only keep the ragtime playing to the end.
Don't forget the time, boys ! Eyes upon the score ! Never heed the wavelets sobbing down the floor ! Play it as you played it when with eager feet A hundred pair of dancers were stamping to the beat.
Stamping to the ragtime down the lamp-lit deck, With shine of glossy linen and with gleam of snowy neck, They've other thoughts to think to-night, and other
things to do. But the tinkle of the ragtime may help to see them
Shut off, shut off the ragtime ! The lights are falling
low ! The deck is buckling under us ! She's sinking by the
bow ! One hymn of hope from dying hands on dying ears to
fall- Gently the music fades away — and so, God rest us all !
Christmas in Trouble 1916
CHEER oh, comrades ! we can bide the blast And face the gloom until it shall grow lighter. What though one Christmas should be overcast, If duty done makes all the others brighter.
THE LAST LAP
We seldom were quick off the mark,
And sprinting was never our game ; But when it's insistence and hold-for-the-distance.
We've never been beat at that same.
The first lap was all to the Hun,
At the second we still saw his back ; But we knew how to wait and to spurt down the straight,
Till we left him dead-beat on the track.
He's a bluffer for all he is worth,
But he's winded and done to the core,
So the last lap is here, with the tape very near. And the old colours well to the fore.
Not merry ! No — the words would grate, With gaps at every table-side,
But chastened, thankful, calm, sedate, Be your victorious Christmas-tide.
" Now for Peace and now for plenty ! " So we said in 1920. Alas there followed fire and flood, 1920 proved a dud.
But we were not to be done, " Stand by now for '21 ! " Economic strife and bother ! It was dudder than the other.
Well we raise our peckers still, '22 may fill the bill, When old Ireland troubles not. And the Trotskys cease to trot.
We hope so — and we wear meanwhile Our patent shock-absorbing smile. But whatever fate may do. We send our greeting out to you.
(Died July 1921)
NO truer, kinder soul Was ever sped than thine. You lived without a growl,
You died without a whine.
To Ronald Ross
[Who was torpedoed in the Gulf of Corinth in 19 17, and was thus enabled to visit Parnassus.]
I'VE read of many poets, Latin, Greek, And bards of Tarragona or Toledo, But you, dear Ross, are surely quite unique, Blown to Parnassus by a Boche torpedo.
THE Doctor came at half-past one, Little Billy saw him from the window. The Doctor he was short and fat, He hid a trumpet in his hat,
And spoke with his ear. You may all doubt that, But Little Billy saw it from the window.
The Doctor left at half-past four.
Little Billy saw him from the window.
The Doctor's head was white and bare.
Like an ostrich egg in a nest of hair,
The marble bounced right up in the air
When little Billy dropped it from the window.
The Doctor came with a small black bag, Little Billy saw it from the window.
And what do you think he had in that ?
Why, a great big howling, yowling brat,
With a voice like a discontented cat.
Little Billy heard it from the window.
And that's how the new brother came,
While little Billy waited at the window. " Who would have thought that Brother Jack Would yell like that ! They ought to pack Him into the bag and send him back," Said angry little Billy at the window.
WHEN our souls are filled with fear, When the path is dull and drear, When the wind is chill and strong, When the way is rough and long. Take heart !
When vague terror fills our breast. When forebodings break our rest, When we search for any light In the black encircling night,
Take heart !
When with feeble hands we grope For some faint elusive hope. When we wander hand in hand, Through the gloomy twilight land. Take heart !
Courage, comrade ! Courage still ! We will breast the weary hill ! Hand in hand we scale the height, Till we reach the golden light.
Take heart !
THERE is a better thing, dear heart, Than youthful flush or girlish grace. There is the faith that never fails,
The courage in the danger place, The duty seen, and duty done,
The heart that yearns for all in need. The lady soul which could not stoop
To selfish thought or lowly deed. All that we ever dreamed, dear wife.
Seems drab and common by the truth, The sweet sad mellow things of life
Are more than golden dreams of youth.
You can read their names in the list of games In the school of long ago. Henderson A. and Wilson J. And Marriott W. 0.
They ragged and fought as schoolboys ought,
And learned to play the game. You can act the fool at an English school,
But it builds you all the same. Verses you plan which fail to scan
And your French is none too good, But you learn to shape as a gentleman,
And to do as a Briton should.
For there's something there, in the sober air,
And the reek of the mellow place. Which seems to hold the instincts old.
And the soul of an ancient race. Where Latin and Greek are far to seek
There is home-made lore for you. The thing that's fair, and the thing that's square,
And the thing no chap can do.
Gothic and grim, in the transept dim
Of the chapel grey and old There's a marbled shrine where line on line
The dead boys' names are scrolled. They gave their dreams of what might be
For the sake of the things that are, When the joyous strife of their glad young life
Had changed to the strife of war.
But there they be, the comrades three,
As in the long ago, Henderson A. and Wilson J.
And Marriott W. 0.
HORSES go down the dingy lane, But never a horse comes up again. The greasy yard where the red hides lie Marks the place where the horses die.
Wheat was sinking year by year,
I bought things cheap, I sold them dear ;
Rent was heavy and taxes high,
And a weary-hearted man was I.
In Lindisfaire I walked my grounds, I hadn't the heart to ride to hounds, And as I walked in black despair, I saw my old bay hunter there.
He tried to nuzzle against my cheek. He looked the grief he could not speak. But no caress came back again, For harder times make harder men.
My thoughts were set on stable rent, On money saved and money spent, On weekly bills for forage lost. And all the old bay hunter cost.
For though a flier in the past, His days of service long were past, His gait was stiff, his eyes were dim, And I could find no use for him.
I turned away with heart of gloom, And sent for Will, my father's groom. The old, old groom, whose worn-out face Was like the fortune of our race.
I gave my order sharp and hard, " Go, ride him to the knacker's yard ; He'll fetch two pounds, it may be three ; Sell him — and bring the price to me."
I saw the old groom wince away,
He looked the thoughts he dared not say ;
Then from his fob he slowly drew
A leather pouch of faded hue.
" Master," said he, " my means are small, This purse of leather holds them all, But I have neither kith nor kin, I'll pay your price for Prince's skin.
- My brother rents the Nether Farm,
And he will hold him safe from harm In the great field where he may graze, And see the finish of his days."
With dimming eyes I saw him stand, Two pounds were in his shaking hand ; I gave a curse to drown the sob, And thrust the purse within his fob.
" May God do this and more to me If we should ever part, we three, Master and horse and faithful friend, We'll share together to the end ! "
You'll think I'm playing it on you, I give my word the thing is true ; I hadn't hardly made the vow, Before I heard a view-halloo.
And, looking round, whom should I see. But Bookie Johnson hailing me ; Johnson, the man who bilked the folks When Ethelrida won the Oaks.
He drew a wad from out his vest, " Here are a thousand of the best ; Luck's turned a bit with me of late. And, as you see, I'm getting straight."
That's all. My luck was turning too. If you have nothing else to do. Run down some day to Lindisfaire, You'll find the old bay hunter there.
HIGH-BROW HOUSE was furnished well With many a goblet fair ; So when they brought the Holy Grail, There was never a space to spare. Simple Cottage was clear and clean,
With room to store at will ; So there they laid the Holy Grail, And there you'll find it still.
1KN0W not how I know, And yet I know. I do not plan to go,
And yet I go. There is some dim force propelling, Gently guiding and compelling, And a faint voice ever telling " This is so."
The path is rough and black —
Dark as night — And there lies a fairer track
In the light. Yet I may not shirk or shrink, For I feel the hands that link As they guide me on the brink
Of the Height.
Bigots blame me in their wrath,
Let them blame ! Praise or blame, the fated path
Is the same. If I droop upon my mission. There is still that saving vision. Iridescent and Elysian,
Tipped in flame.
It was granted me to stand
By my dead. I have felt the vanished hand
On my head, On my brow the vanished lips, And I know that Death's eclipse Is a floating veil that slips,
Or is shed.
When I heard thy well-known voice,
Son of mine. Should I silently rejoice.
Or incline To strike harder as a fighter. That the heavy might be lighter. And the gloomy might be brighter
At the sign ?
Great Guide, I ask you still,
" Wherefore I ? " But if it be thy will That I try. Trace my pathway among men. Show me how to strike, and when, Take me to the fight — and then. Oh, be nigh !
A well in an arid rocky spot. At the back a zvindingpath. Beyond a rugged mountain^ the summit of which is draped in clouds. Round the well sit the Faith family, who are the hereditary guides upon the journey. Beside them sits an iridescent evasive creature who is Inspiration. A little apart sits Reason, a stern greybeard. Aloof from them all sits Science, working with a battery and some wires. The Faith family are clad in various garbs, all with a suspicion of sacerdotalism, either Mahometan, Buddhist, or Christian. Faith i. What a blessing it is that we are appointed guides upon the journey ! What would the poor people do without us !
All. Ah, what would they do without us ! Faith i. They would never reach the City Beautiful at all. They would all wander off upon the way.
Faith 2. They would die in the great salt marsh of Sin.
Faith 3. Or be starved in the Jungle of Disbelief, or fall over the Precipice of Schism.
Faith 4. Well, it depends upon what you call Schism. Faith i. Hush ! we need not go into that. Perhaps
we had best agree to drop the subject as it has led to so much trouble in the past. We all know in our own hearts what we mean by Schism.
All. [Glaring at each other] Yes, we know that.
Faith 2. Allow me to tell you what Schism is
Faith i. No, no, let us change the subject! The road is very quiet to-day. We have not had many to guide.
Faith 2. So many guide themselves these days and don't want any help from us.
Faith 3. Poor creatures ! I wonder what befalls them.
Faith i. And so many never know that they are on a journey at all, and simply wander downwards or round and round the mountain instead of trying to get to the city at the top.
Faith 2. Deplorable ! Deplorable ! We can but go among them and point them upwards.
Faith 3. This is an important camping ground. I thought of erecting a sign-post, so that if I should not be there it would point the way.
All. Admirable ! Splendid ! Let us have a sign- post.
Faith 3. See [produces a crossed stick], I have actually made one. [Rises'] I will put it on the rock there so that it may point due east.
Faith 2. But that is the wrong way.
Faith i. Of course it is.
Faith 3. It is the right way.
Others. No, no ! Wrong ! Wrong !
Faith i. Why, if he went that way he would be up
to his neck in the quagmire of Superstition and never win his way through.
Faith 3. You are talking nonsense. How would you go ?
Faith i. That way ! [pointing].
Faith 2. No, that way ! (pointing).
Faith 3. And both of them right over the edge of the Precipice of Schism and down into the Valley of Damna- tion.
Faith i. Keep a civil tongue, if you please.
Faith 3. I will testify to what I know to be truth.
Faith 2. Bigoted, obstinate ass ! How do you know that it is truth ?
Faith 3. Because I was told long ago by Inspiration. You told me, Inspiration ?
Inspir. Yes, I told you. Quite right. I told you.
Faith 3. You hear her. She told me. I have never allowed myself to question it. The way is really quite straight. What you imagine to be the quagmire of Superstition is really the pleasant Valley of Tradition. You can't go wrong, for you can guide yourself by the church steeple, which can always be seen. Somewhere on the hills beyond lies the City.
Faith 4. By Allah, I could smite you with this staff when I hear such talk. You would surely lead the poor wayfarers to Gehenna. A great guide of old named Mahomet showed me the way, and as I learned it, so I teach it.
Faith 2. But who showed it to him ?
Faith 4. Surely it was Inspiration.
Inspir. Yes, yes, I showed it to him. It is right as I showed it.
Faith 4. You go eastwards, it is true, but you take your bearings from a town named Mecca, and pass over the plain of Pious Observance, until at last the minarets of the great City rise before you.
Faith i. No, no, my good friend. You're very earnest, I admit, but I wouldn't trust your guide, and I think our mutual friend Inspiration was less happy than usual if she ever suggested such a route.
Faith 2. Well, how do you direct the travellers ?
Faith i. Well, I start them from the beginning at the gate of the Baptistry. There the path is clear
enough, and I see that every one of them has a book which will tell them the right way if they are in doubt.
Faith 4. But who wrote the book ?
Faith i. It was Inspiration who wrote it. You did, did you not ?
Inspir. Oh yes, the book is mine.
Faith 4. And my guide book. You wrote that ?
Inspir. Certainly. I wrote that also.
Reason. [Stepping forward,] Might I be permitted to say a word or two ?
Faith i. Certainly not.
Faith 2. It's that old bore Reason.
Faith 3. We don't know the fellow.
Faith 4. I can hardly keep my hands off him.
Reason. It's true that you and I parted company many, many centuries ago. I don't think we were ever ' very friendly, so far as I can remember.
Faith i. I should hope not indeed.
Faith 2. We have nothing to do with you.
Faith 3. You are getting much too forward nowadays.
Faith 4. The sharp edge of a sword is what my ancestors gave you. •
Faith i. Indeed ! We used always to burn the fellow.
Faith 2. We merely ignore his existence. We look on him as bad form.
Reason. Still, whether you burn me or ignore me, I am still there, you know. You can't really get away from me. Now do please answer a question or two, will you ?
Faith i. No flippancy — nothing offensive !
Reason. Certainly not. I have, I assure you, every respect for you — that is to say for your motives, though not for your proceedings.
Faith 2. Pray, what do you mean by that ?
Reason. I mean that you all are very earnest and have the best intentions.
Faith 3. [Sardonically^ We thank you most humbly.
Reason. You only need my co-operation to be most valuable.
Faith 4. Rascally infidel !
Faith i . What characteristic modesty !
Faith 2. You were always a detestable prig.
Faith 3. And how, pray, could you improve us ?
Reason. I would bid you beware of this hussy In- spiration. Can't you see that she is fooling you ? Is it not clear that she has given you half a dozen contra- dictory directions, and that they can't all be the right one ?
Inspir. Blasphemy ! Blasphemy ! Burn the rascal !
Faith i. One is the right one. The others are delusions.
Reason. Then which is the right one ?
Reason. You see ! Each of you believes that his comrades have been deceived. Don't you think it more likely that you have all been deceived.
Inspir. Oh, villainy ! Blasphemy ! I knew that you put that rack away too soon. Has no one got a pincers about him ?
Faith i. If it were not for us, who would guide the travellers ?
Reason. But you all guide them in different direc- tions, and spend most of your time abusing each other.
Faith 2. At least we all point them upwards.
Reason. Exactly. You all point them upwards. There is your merit. But I would point them upwards also, without pretending that only one path can lead to the City. All upward paths will take you equally to the high places. Inspiration has been no help to you. She has only set you all by the ears.
Inspir. Atrocious ! Horrible ! What are we com- ing to ? Don't wait here or he will contaminate you. Away ! Away ! The fellow is dangerous.
Faith i. Come on, my friends. This is most un- edifying talk.
Faith 2. The fellow always gives me a headache.
Faith 3. We should be simple travellers like the rest if he had his way.
Faith 4. And Mecca like any other town. May
Allah confound you and guide you down the Valley of
[J II this time Science has been absorbed in his work^
Reason. Hullo, Science ! \No answer, 1 Hullo, old Science ! [No answer.'] Bless the fellow, he is always absorbed in his own dreams. [Goes across and touches him.l
Science. Get away ! Don't interrupt me !
Reason. You are a grumpy fellow.
Science. Oh, it's you. Reason. I don't mind you. I look on you as a friend. I thought it was one of those Faith people, for I heard them all chattering behind me.
Reason. What did you think of what they said ?
Science. I am far too busy to think of what they say.
Reason. But I thought that you and they were getting much more friendly. Some of the travellers told me so of late.
Science. Well, I don't know. We should get along very well if it were not for that hussy Inspiration.
Reason. You don't seem to love her any more than I do.
Science. She raises a scream against everything I do. She accuses me of contradicting her. Such a touchy person, she is. Then they all take her side. I am cold-shouldered by them all. But the fact is, my dear Reason, I am so useful to them all that they can't get on without me. The travellers all say, whatever difference there may be about our path, it is certainly made very much more convenient and comfortable by this hard-working old fellow. I don't give them promises only. They actually see and feel what I do
When old Faith tries to read his guide book in the dark, it is I who give him his electric torch. When his eyes give way — and they are all getting a bit senile, you know — it is I who correct them with glasses. So they don't pay too much attention to the cries of Inspiration, and they actually admit that they mistook her meaning and that there is no real difference of opinion.
Reason. That's better than being burned at the stake. In old Giordano Bruno's time you and I used to blaze together. We are getting a little of our own back now. What are you working at ?
Science. I was plotting out a power station to light the travellers in the dark places of the path.
Reason. And where do you think the path leads to ?
Science. Oh, I know nothing of such matters.
Reason. Well, you at least know that you exist.
Science. Nothing of the sort. I may be altogether subjective. I may be somebody's dream.
Reason. Oh, come, come ! Cheer up ! Is there nothing solid you can get hold of ?
Science. Nothing reliable. I used to work things down to the atom. Now it is the electron. I suspect it will end in the ether. There is no finality.
Reason. But a purposeful force behind it all ?
Science. Pure impersonal laws.
Reason. Which made themselves ?
Reason. Ah, there you and I must agree to differ.
Science. When you differ from me, you cease to be yourself.
Reason. The older you grow, the more dogmatic you
get. You know, you old rascal, if you got the upper hand, you are capable of burning a few people on your own account.
Science. Don't be funny ! I am trying to work.
Reason. But you are an honest and useful old chap. A little limited and a bit inhuman — that's all. You should marry Imagination.
Science. Half-sister of Inspiration. Thank you, I have had quite enough of that family.
Reason. You'd do her good — and she you.
Science. Well^ I must go and fix up this installation. Don't forget that you are rather limited yourself. Here are some travellers coming. Where's that voltmeter ? And the induction coil ? Thank you. Well, if you like to travel with me, come along ! [Exeunt.
[Enter a man and a woman.']
The Man. Thank heaven that we have shaken off the guides. They make my head ache with their chatter.
The Woman. And yet, dear, they all point us upwards.
The Man. Some of them seemed to me to be going downwards themselves.
The Woman. We must go as they point.
The Man. Yes, woman seems to need a guide.
The Woman. We are lost without one. I like a guide and one who is sure of himself — one who has no doubt that he knows the way.
The Man. Whether he really does or not ?
The Woman. One can at least hope that what he says is truth.
The Man. Well, I used to trust them. But they differed so much that I took to guiding myself with the
little help that old Reason could give me. Let us rest by this well.
The Woman. Yes, let us rest. Oh, it is a weary, weary journey.
The Man. We have love to help us along — and that is more than many can say.
The Woman. Yes, if love were not with us, I should indeed despair. Love has been our true helper.
The Man. And yet, do you remember that pale sad-faced creature who has walked again and again so very close to us ?
The Woman. You mean Sorrow.
The Man. Exactly. Sorrow. I am not sure that she is not the best guide of all. We seem to have risen higher always when she has been our companion.
The Woman. It is true. I shudder when I think of her, and yet she has surely helped us upon our way. How pale and weary the poor child is ! [Looks at child.']
The Man. Put him here among the ferns.
The Woman. He is worn out. Rest there, my darling!
The Man. She was with us when our boy died.
The Woman. And that night, as we sat together hand in hand, each thinking of the other's grief, then and only then did we seem for one moment, as we looked upwards, to see some break in the clouds and to know that there was indeed something there which makes the long journey worth while.
The Man. Yes, I felt that. I saw the City. Just for a moment I seemed to see the shining walls. [Looks at the hoy^ Dear laddie, how weary he is ! Should we wake him and give him food ?
The Woman. Let him rest. He can have food when he wakes. I am so very tired.
The Man. Dear heart, what a comrade you have been ! Poor little feet, worn out by tramping at my side.
The Woman. But oh, it was worth it, my own man who never gave a thought to himself.
The Man. How could I when — — Hullo, who are these ?
[Three roisterers come singing down the path."]
The Man. Heh, friends ! you are going the wrong way.
A Roisterer. What d'you mean, the wrong way ? How the deuce do you know where we want to get to ?
The Man. Surely you want to get up to the City Beautiful, like the rest of us.
Roisterer. Not much. We've tried that game, and it won't work. No, no, my friend, you can do the climbing and hunt for something which is up in the clouds of dreamland. Give us something solid.
2ND Roisterer. That's the idea. Something solid. What's the use of talking about things that are far away. We want to enjoy ourselves here and now. One City of pleasure down in the plain is worth many City Beautifuls up on the hill-top. Come on, my lads !
3RD Roisterer. You look tired out. No wonder, when you are climbing all the time. It's much easier! to go down hill with us.
The Man. But you only have to come back again.
Roisterer. Oh, bother the fellow. He's a kill-joy. Come on, boys. We'll have a rare time down there.
The Man. No, no, don't be foolish. You've got so far. You are bound sooner or later to get to the top. What is the use of going down when you will have all the climbing to do over again.
Roisterer. That's the future. Hang the future ! We're in the present.
2ND Roisterer. But there's something in what the fellow says. We were not started on this journey for the purpose of having a good time, were we ? We were started that we might get to the top.
3RD Roisterer. Well, I want some liquor, and I am going down for it. Come on. Jack, if you are coming.
2ND Roisterer.. No, I think I'll start up the hill again. I remember what my mother used to say
Roisterer. Oh, bother your mother ! Come on, Tom. Leave the milksop here, if he wants to stay.
The two go on down the hill. The other goes slowly up.]
The Man. Poor souls ! I've been down before now myself.
The Woman. Yes, we have all done it and learned our lesson.
[Enter Sorrow who sits unobserved on rock at back.]
The Man. Are you less weary now, dear ?
The Woman. Yes, yes, if only the little fellow is rested we can soon go on.
The Man. Do you remember, dear, that when we lost our way, and when it was so dark as we crossed the great marsh of Doubt, I told you that the best guide was our dear little dead lad whom I saw in front of us ?
The Woman. Yes, I saw him too.
The Man. I asked old Science about it. He said it was impossible.
The Woman. Yes, but when you asked him the second time, Science was not so sure about it. At first he thought Imagination had a hand in it. But when he learned that we both saw it, and that Imagination was not present at all, he was more serious about it.
The Man. Yes, but since then I have seen our boy again and again. He is still living, and he is leading us to the City Beautiful, for he has found his own way there. [Looks round.] Who is that over there ?
The Woman. It looks like Sorrow.
The Man. I'm afraid of that woman. I wish she would not come with us.
The Woman. But she did help us up. Let us ask her to the well.
The Man. Won't you come and join us at the well ? [Sorrow advances and sits down.]
The Woman. Poor thing ! You'll reach the City some day, will you not ?
Sorrow. No, there is no place for me there. I am stationed on the path. You will always find me there.
The Woman. Every one avoids you, and is afraid of you.
Sorrow. And yet those who have known me make better progress than those who have not.
The Man. Yes, I have known some people who said that they had never met Sorrow, and they were not people whom I wish to travel with. Their hearts were hard to others for they could not understand. Now, dear, if you are rested, we must go on.
The Woman. Yes, dear, we must go on. [Goes to the child.] Oh, John, John, our little boy is dead !
The Man. My God ! Oh, my poor, poor wife !
The Woman. John, dear John, it will break your great heart.
[They embrace each other and weep.]
[Sorrow blesses them and moves slowly away.]
The Man. Well, it is the darkest pass of all. How black it looks above our heads !
The Woman. But surely I see the upward path more clearly.
The Man. Yes, yes, see how it winds over the shoulder of the hill. And see the Towers of the City. Never have we seen it so clearly. Come, while the way is open.
The Woman. Can we leave our bairn ?
The Man. Remember the other. He is ahead of us on the path. We have two guides, not one. Come, brave comrade, come !
[They place their cloak over the child and turn to ascend the path.]
Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury, England.
By ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE