The Great War

from The Volunteer and Other Poems, an electronic edition

The Western

Flanders, 1915.

THOR draws a chord invisible

Across the shaking sky:

I hear the tearing of the shell,

The bullets sing and cry,

As, charging through the flames of hell,

The batteries go by.

The gunners laugh about the task,

That man to man has given:

Like Titans, now the guns unmask,

And fire the veils of heaven.

Above the cloud what lights are gleaming?

God's batteries are those,

Or souls of soldiers, homeward streaming

To banquet with their foes?

The floods of battle ebb and flow,

The soldiers to Valhalla go!

They say that, when the day awoke,

And the dying night was wan,

Harry of England rode the smoke,

And led the English van:

And bowmen in the battle-glare

Rose from the ghostly dew:

The clothyard sang upon the air,

And the grey goose-feather flew!

Harry of England is awake,

His archers mind not trench or stake !

And men have seen the Emperor,

The Eagle of the South:

God grant the bonds be loosed by Thor

That bind that marble mouth!

The silver roads of conquest lie

Fast frozen in his brow:

Would those imperious lips were free

To give their orders now!

The floods of battle ebb and flow,

The soldiers to Valhalla go!

Beyond the thunder of the guns,

Beyond the flaming line,

Far from this sky of echoing bronze,

The English valleys shine;

The gardens, moated in the wolds,

By wind and water kissed;

And dainty girls, that England folds

In sunshine and in mist.

The floods of battle ebb and flow,

The soldiers to Valhalla go!

The fighting men go charging past,

With the battle in their eyes,

The fighting men go reeling past,

Like gods in poor disguise:

And stumbling men, whom none will see,

No wife or mother more,

Winged with the wings of Victory,

And helmeted by Thor!

Above the cloud what lights are gleaming?

God's batteries are those,

Or souls of soldiers, homeward streaming

To banquet with their foes?