The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

Then and Now

When battles were fought

With a chivalrous sense of should and ought,

In spirit men said,

"End we quick or dead,

Honour is some reward!

Let us fight fair -- for our own best or worst;

So, Gentlemen of the Guard,

Fire first!"

In the open they stood,

Man to man in his knightlihood:

They would not deign

To profit by a stain

On the honourable rules,

Knowing that practise perfidy no man durst

Who in the heroic schools

Was nurst.

But now, behold, what

Is war with those where honour is not!

Rama laments

Its dead innocents;

Herod howls: "Sly slaughter

Rules now! Let us, by modes once called accurst,

Overhead, under water,

Stab first."