The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

To the Belgians

O race that C├Žsar knew,

That won stern Roman praise,

What land not envies you

The laurel of these days?

You built your cities rich

Around each towered hall, --

Without, the statued niche,

Within, the pictured wall.

Your ship-thronged wharves, your marts

With gorgeous Venice vied.

Peace and her famous arts

Were yours: though tide on tide

Of Europe's battle scourged

Black field and reddened soil,

From blood and smoke emerged

Peace and her fruitful toil.

Yet when the challenge rang,

"The War-Lord comes; give room!"

Fearless to arms you sprang

Against the odds of doom.

Like your own Damien

Who sought that leper's isle

To die a simple man

For men with tranquil smile,

So strong in faith you dared

Defy the giant, scorn

Ignobly to be spared,

Though trampled, spoiled, and torn,

And in your faith arose

And smote, and smote again,

Till those astonished foes

Reeled from their mounds of slain,

The faith that the free soul,

Untaught by force to quail,

Through fire and dirge and dole

Prevails and shall prevail.

Still for your frontier stands

The host that knew no dread,

Your little, stubborn land's

Nameless, immortal dead.