O SHARDS of walls that once held precious life,
Now scattered, like the bones the Prophet saw
Lying in visioned valley of the slain
Ere One cried: "Son of Man, can these bones live?"
O images of heroes, saints, and Christs,
Pierced, broken, thrust in hurried sepulture
In selfsame tombs with tinsel, dross, and dreg,
And without time for either shrift or shroud!
O smold'ring embers of Love's hearthstone fires,
Quenched by the fiercer fires of hellish hate,
That have not where to kindle flames again
To light succeeding generations on!
O ghost-grey ashes of cathedral towers
That toward the sky once raised appealing hands
To beg the God of all take residence
And hold communion with the kneeling souls!
O silent tongues of bells that once did ring
Matin and Angelus o'er peaceful fields,
Now shapeless slag that will to-morrow serve
To make new engines for still others' woe!
O dust that flowered in finial and foil
And bright in many-petaled windows bloomed,
Now unto dust returned at cannon's breath
To lay thy faded glories on the crypt!
O wounded cities that have been beloved
As Priam's city was by Hecuba,—
Sad Hecuba, who ere in exile borne,
Beheld her Hector's child Astyanax
Spitted on spear (as if a Belgian babe)
And saw the walls in smoke and flame ascend
To hover heav'nward with wide-brooding wings
Above the "vanished thing" that once was Troy!
O shards of sanctuaries and of homes!
O embers, ashes grey, and glinting dust!
Ye who were tile or tower in Laon or Ypres,
A village by the Somme, a church in Roye,
A bit of glass in Reims, a convent bell
In St. Dié, a lycée in Verdun,
A wayside crucifix in Mézières,
Again I hear a cry: "Can these bones live?"
Yes! As the bones, o'er which the Prophet cried
And called the breath from Heav'n's four winds to breathe,
Sprang straightway bone to bone, each to its place,
To frame in flesh the features and the forms
They still remembered and still loved to hold
Once more on earth—so shall ye rise again!
Out of their quarries, cumulus, the clouds
Will furnish back your flame in crystal stone;
The cirrus dawns in Parsee tapestries
With azure broiderings will clothe your walls;
The nimbus noons will shower golden rain
And sunset colours fill each Gothic arch;
For o'er thy stricken vales, O valiant France,
Our love for thee shall prophesy anew,
And Heav'n's Four Winds of Liberty, allied,
Shall breathe unpoisoned in thy streets till they
Shall pulse again with life that laughs and sings,
And yet remembers, singing through its tears
The music of an everlasting song—
Remembers, proudly and undyingly,
The hero dust that lies in shrouds of blue
But rises as thy soul, immortal France!