The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

Verdun

Three hundred thousand men, but not enough

To break this township on a winding stream;

More yet must fall, and more, ere the red stuff

That built a nation's manhood may redeem

The Master's hopes and realize his dream.

They pave the way to Verdun; on their dust

The Hohenzollerns mount and, hand in hand,

Gaze haggard south; for yet another thrust

And higher hills must heap, ere they may stand

To feed their eyes upon the promised land.

One barrow, borne of women, lifts them high,

Built up of many a thousand human dead.

Nursed on their mothers' bosoms, now they lie --

A Golgotha, all shattered, torn and sped,

A mountain for these royal feet to tread.

A Golgotha, upon whose carrion clay

Justice of myriad men still in the womb

Shall heave two crosses; crucify and flay

Two memories accurs'd; then in the tomb

Of world-wide execration give them room.

Verdun! A clarion thy name shall ring

Adown the ages and the Nations see

Thy monuments of glory. Now we bring

Thank-offering and bend the reverent knee,

Thou star upon the crown of Liberty!