The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

Jimmy Doane

Often I think of you, Jimmy Doane,

You who, lightheartedly, 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 America 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.