The Great War

from The Volunteer and Other Poems, an electronic edition

On a Troopship, 1915

FAREWELL, the village leaning to the hill,

And all the cawing rooks that homeward fly ;

The bees; the drowsy anthem of the mill

The willows winding under April sky !

We watch the breakers crashing on the bow,

And those far flashes in the Eastern haze :

The fields and friends, that were, are fainter now

Than whispering of ancient waterways.

Now England stirs, as stirs a dreamer wound

In immemorial slumber ; lids apart,

Soon will she rouse her giant limbs, attuned

To that old music hidden at her heart.

The small occasions and the menial cries

Fade fast away : the little men beware :

She rises in her circuit of the skies,

An eagle drinking of the mountain air.

We come to harbour in the breath of wars;

Welcome again, the land of our farewells

In this strange ruin, open to the stars,

We find the haven, where her spirit dwells.