A treasury of war poetry, British and American poems of the world war, 1914-1919/Great Britain and America
A SONG of hate is a song of Hell;
Some there be that sing it well.
Let them sing it loud and long,
We lift our hearts in a loftier song:
We lift our hearts to Heaven above,
Singing the glory of her we love,—
Glory of thought and glory of deed,
Glory of Hampden and Runnymede;
Glory of ships that sought far goals,
Glory of swords and glory of souls!
Glory of songs mounting as birds,
Glory immortal of magical words;
Glory of Milton, glory of Nelson,
Tragical glory of Gordon and Scott;
Glory of Shelley, glory of Sidney,
Glory transcendent that perishes not,—
Hers is the story, hers be the glory,
Shatter her beauteous breast ye may;
The spirit of England none can slay!
Dash the bomb on the dome of Paul's—
Deem ye the fame of the Admiral falls?
Pry the stone from the chancel floor,—
Dream ye that Shakespeare shall live no more?
Where is the giant shot that kills
Wordsworth walking the old green hills?
Trample the red rose on the ground,—
Keats is Beauty while earth spins round!
Bind her, grind her, burn her with fire,
Cast her ashes into the sea,—
She shall escape, she shall aspire,
She shall arise to make men free:
She shall arise in a sacred scorn,
Lighting the lives that are yet unborn;
Spirit supernal, Splendour eternal,
WHEN the fire sinks in the grate, and night has bent
Close wings about the room, and winter stands
Hard-eyed before the window, when the hands
Have turned the book's last page and friends are sleeping,
Thought, as it were an old stringed instrument
Drawn to remembered music, oft does set
The lips moving in prayer, for us fresh keeping
Knowledge of springtime and the violet.
And, as the eyes grow dim with many years,
The spirit runs more swiftly than the feet,
Perceives its comfort, knows that it will meet
God at the end of troubles, that the dreary
Last reaches of old age lead beyond tears
To happy youth unending. There is peace
In homeward waters, where at last the weary
Shall find rebirth, and their long struggle cease.
So, at this hour, when the Old World lies sick,
Beyond the pain, the agony of breath
Hard drawn, beyond the menaces of death,
O'er graves and years leans out the eager spirit.
First must the ancient die; then shall be quick
New fires within us. Brother, we shall make
Incredible discoveries and inherit
The fruits of hope, and love shall be awake.
WHEN England's king put English to the horn,
To England thus spake England over sea,
"In peace be friend, in war my enemy";
Then countering pride with pride, and lies with scorn,
Broke with the man whose ancestor had borne
A sharper pain for no more injury.
How otherwise should freemen deal and be,
With patience frayed and loyalty outworn?
No act of England's shone more generous gules,
Than that which sever'd once for all the strands
Which bound you English. You may search the lands
In vain, and vainly rummage in the schools
To find a deed more English, or a shame
On England with more honour to her name.
NOW is the time of the splendour of Youth and Death.
The spirit of man grows grander than men knew.
The unbearable burden is borne, the impossible done;
Though harder is yet to do
Before this agony end, and that be won
We seek through blinding battle, in choking breath,—
The New World, seen in vision! Land of lands,
In the midst of storms that desolate and divide,
In the hour of the breaking heart, O far-descried,
You build our courage, you hold up our hands.
Men of America, you that march to-day
Through roaring London, supple and lean of limb,
Glimpsed in the crowd I saw you, and in your eye
Something alert and grim,
As knowing on what stern call you march away
To the wrestle of nations; saw your heads held high
And, that same moment, far in a glittering beam
High over old and storied Westminster
The Stars and Stripes with England's flag astir,
Sisterly twined and proud on the air astream.
Men of America, what do you see? Is it old
Towers of fame and grandeur time-resigned?
The frost of custom's backward-gazing thought?
Seek closer! You shall find
Miracles hour by hour in silence wrought;
Births, and awakenings; dyings never tolled;
Invisible crumble and fall of prison-bars.
O, wheresoever his home, new or decayed,
Man is older than all the things he has made
And yet the youngest spirit beneath the stars.
Rock-cradled, white, and soaring out of the sea,
I behold again the fabulous city arise,
Manhattan! Queen of thronged and restless bays
And of daring ships is she.
O lands beyond, that into the sunset gaze,
Limitless, teeming continent of surmise!
I drink again that diamond air, I thrill
To the lure of a wonder more than the wondrous past,
And see before me ages yet more vast
Rising, to challenge heart and mind and will.
What sailed they out to seek, who of old came
To that bare earth and wild, unhistoried coast?
Not gold, nor granaries, nay, nor a halcyon ease
For the weary and tempest-tost:
The unshaken soul they sought, possessed in peace
What seek we now, and hazard all on the aim?
In the heart of man is the undiscovered earth
Whose hope's our compass; sweet with glorious passion
Of men's goodwill; a world to forge and fashion
Worthy the things we have seen and brought to birth.
Taps of the Drum! Now once again they beat:
And the answer comes; a continent arms. Dread,
Pity, and Grief, there is no escape. The call
Is the call of the risen Dead.
Terrible year of the nations' trampling feet!
An angel has blown his trumpet over all
From the ends of the earth, from East to uttermost West,
Because of the soul of man, that shall not fail,
That will not make refusal, or turn, or quail,
No, nor for all calamity, stay its quest.
And here, here too, is the New World, born of pain
In destiny-spelling hours. The old world breaks
Its mould, and life runs fierce and fluid, a stream
That floods, dissolves, re-makes.
Each pregnant moment, charged to its extreme,
Quickens unending future, and all's vain
But the onward mind, that dares the oncoming years
And takes their storm, a master. Life shall then
Transfigure Time with yet more marvellous men.
Hail to the sunrise! Hail to the Pioneers!
OFTEN I think of you, Jimmy Doane,—
You who, light-heartedly, came to my house
Three autumns, to shoot and to eat a grouse!
As I sat apart in this quiet room,
My mind was full of the horror of war
And not with the hope of a visitor.
I had dined on food that had lost its taste;
My soul was cold and I wished you were here,
When, all in a moment, I knew you were near.
Placing that chair where you used to sit,
I looked at my book:—Three years to-day
Since you laughed in that seat and I heard you say
"My country is with you, whatever befall:
America—Britain—these two are akin
In courage and honour; they underpin
"The rights of Mankind!" Then you grasped my hand
With a brotherly grip, and you made me feel
Something that Time would surely reveal.
You were comely and tall; you had corded arms,
And sympathy's grace with your strength was blent;
You were generous, clever, and confident.
There was that in your hopes which uncountable lives
Have perished to make; your heart was fulfilled
With the breath of God that can never be stilled.
A living symbol of power, you talked
Of the work to do in the world to make
Life beautiful: yes, and my heartstrings ache
To think how you, at the stroke of War,
Chose that your steadfast soul should fly
With the eagles of France as their proud ally.
You were America's self, dear lad—
The first swift son of your bright, free land
To heed the call of the Inner Command—
To image its spirit in such rare deeds
As braced the valour of France, who knows
That the heart of Amerca thrills with her woes.
For a little leaven leavens the whole!
Mostly we find, when we trouble to seek
The soul of a people, that some unique,
Brave man is its flower and symbol, who
Makes bold to utter the words that choke
The throats of feebler, timider folk.
You flew for the western eagle—and fell
Doing great things for your country's pride:
For the beauty and peace of life you died.
Britain and France have shrined in their souls
Your memory, yes, and for ever you share
Their love with their perished lords of the air.
Invisible now, in that empty seat,
You sit, who came through the clouds to me,
Swift as a message from over the sea.
My house is always open to you:
Dear Spirit, come often and you will find
Welcome, where mind can foregather with mind!
And may we sit together one day
Quietly here, when a word is said
To bring new gladness unto our dead,
Knowing your dream is a dream no more;
And seeing on some momentous pact
Your vision upbuilt as a deathless fact.
HERE Freedom stood by slaughtered friend and foe,
And, ere the wrath paled or that sunset died,
Looked through the ages; then, with eyes aglow,
Laid them to wait that future, side by side.
(Lines for a monument to the American and British soldiers of the Revolutionary War who fell on the Princeton battlefield and were buried in one grave.)
Now lamp-lit gardens in the blue dusk shine
Through dogwood, red and white;
And round the grey quadrangles, line by line,
The windows fill with light,
Where Princeton calls to Magdalen, tower to tower,
Twin lanthorns of the law;
And those cream-white magnolia boughs embower
The halls of "Old Nassau."
The dark bronze tigers crouch on either side
Where redcoats used to pass;
And round the bird-loved house where Mercer died.
And violets dusk the grass,
By Stony Brook that ran so red of old,
But sings of friendship now,
To feed the old enemy's harvest fifty-fold
The green earth takes the plough.
Through this May night, if one great ghost should stray
With deep remembering eyes,
Where that old meadow of battle smiles away
Its blood-stained memories,
If Washington should walk, where friend and foe
Sleep and forget the past,
Be sure his unquenched heart would leap to know
Their souls are linked at last.
Be sure he walks, in shadowy buff and blue,
Where those dim lilacs wave.
He bends his head to bless, as dreams come true,
The promise of that grave;
Then, with a vaster hope than thought can scan,
Touching his ancient sword,
Prays for that mightier realm of God in man:
"Hasten thy kingdom, Lord.
"Land of our hope, land of the singing stars,
Type of the world to be,
The vision of a world set free from wars
Takes life, takes form from thee;
Where all the jarring nations of this earth,
Beneath the all-blessing sun,
Bring the new music of mankind to birth,
And make the whole world one."
And those old comrades rise around him there,
Old foemen, side by side,
With eyes like stars upon the brave night air,
And young as when they died,
To hear your bells, O beautiful Princeton towers,
Ring for the world's release.
They see you piercing like grey swords through flowers,
And smile, from souls at peace.
- To "put to the horn" was to declare an outlawry.
- Charles the First.