The Great War

from A Calendar of Verse, an electronic edition

The Sword of Lafayette

It was the time of our despair,

When lion-hearted Washington --

That man of patience and of prayer --

Looked sadly at each rising sun.

In all the freedom-breeding air,

Of hope and rescue there was none.

When lo! -- as down from Heaven let,

There came the sword of Lafayette!

Our harbors -- how they danced with light!

Our tireless bells -- how they did ring!

Again we girded up to fight

Not England, but her Prussian king.

For here was succor, and the might

Of one great soul's imagining...

What wonder if our eyes be wet

To see the sword of Lafayette!

Upon the walls where Justice keeps

The swords she doth most gladly save,

Not one of all so deeply sleeps

Within the scabbard's honored grave

But, listening for her call, it leaps,

To live again among the brave.

Thank Heaven our naked blade is set

Beside the sword of Lafayette!

Not his, not ours, the brutal strife,

The vulgar greed of soil or dross;

The feet that follow drum and fife

Shall tread to nobler gain or loss.

'Tis for the holiness of life

The Spirit calls us to the Cross.

Forget us, God, if we forget

The sacred sword of Lafayette!

Notes

(Inscribed to Raymond Poincaré, President of the French Republic)