The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

We Willed it Not

We willed it not. We have not lived in hate,

Loving too well the shires of England thrown

From sea to sea to covet your estate,

Or wish one flight of fortune from your throne.

We had grown proud because the nations stood

Hoping together against the calumny

That, tortured of its old barbarian blood,

Barbarian still the heart of man should be.

Builders there are who name you overlord,

Building with us the citadels of light,

Who hold as we this chartered sin abhorred,

And cry you risen C├Žsar of the Night.

Beethoven speaks with Milton on this day,

And Shakespeare's word with Goethe's beats the sky,

In witness of the birthright you betray,

In witness of the vision you deny.

We love the hearth, the quiet hills, the song,

The friendly gossip come from every land;

And very peace were now a nameless wrong --

You thrust this bitter quarrel to our hand.

For this your pride the tragic armies go,

And the grim navies watch along the seas;

You trade in death, you mock at life, you throw

To God the tumult of your blasphemies.

You rob us of our love-right. It is said.

In treason to the world you are enthroned.

We rise, and, by the yet ungathered dead,

Not lightly shall the treason be atoned.