The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

The Day's March

The battery grides and jingles,

Mile succeeds to mile;

Shaking the noonday sunshine

The guns lunge out awhile,

And then are still awhile.

We amble along the highway;

The reeking, powdery dust

Ascends and cakes our faces

With a striped, sweaty crust.

Under the still sky's violet

The heat throbs on the air...

The white road's dusty radiance

Assumes a dark glare.

With a head hot and heavy,

And eyes that cannot rest,

And a black heart burning

In a stifled breast,

I sit in the saddle,

I feel the road unroll,

And keep my senses straightened

Toward to-morrow's goal.

There, over unknown meadows

Which we must reach at last,

Day and night thunders

A black and chilly blast.

Heads forget heaviness,

Hearts forget spleen,

For by that mighty winnowing

Being is blown clean.

Light in the eyes again,

Strength in the hand,

A spirit dares, dies, forgives,

And can understand!

And, best! Love comes back again

After grief and shame,

And along the wind of death

Throws a clean flame.

The battery grides and jingles,

Mile succeeds to mile;

Suddenly battering the silence

The guns burst out awhile...

I lift my head and smile.