The Great War

from A Calendar of Verse, an electronic edition

A Woman of Paris

(September, 1914)

Retreating toward the Marne, his regiment

Would pass at morn a neighboring suburb through;

And thither walked his glad young wife, intent

To see her soldier, strong and brave and true;

And in her arms, or pattering with light feet

Beside her steps, she held her baby boy --

O the proud moment when his eyes should greet

Their little Victor brimming o'er with joy!

Upon the curb she stood as past they filed,

When something barred the way and, unawares,

The march a moment stayed; then wife and child

Saw, in the line, the father's friend, and theirs --

And springing from the ranks, he seized her arm:

"Courage, courage, Madame! Your husband fell

Yesterday, by my side, at Maux...."

Ah, well...

Ah, well.. her eyelids closed, her heart stood still..

What joy henceforth can wile, what grief can harm!..

Then swift above her head, with deathless will,

She raised her boy, presenting him, and cried

For all her anguish, "Vive la France!"

A thrill

Ran through the throng, and with the line's advance

Cheers filled the morning sky for her and France

As if no soldier in his place had died!

For France, secure, invincible, immortal,

While women such as she are at its portal!