The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

Sonnets

I

I see across the chasm of flying years

The pyre of Dido on the vacant shore;

I see Medea's fury and hear the roar

Of rushing flames, the new bride's burning tears;

And ever as still another vision peers

Thro' memory's mist to stir me more and more,

I say that surely I have lived before

And known this joy and trembled with these fears.

The passion that they show me burns so high;

Their love, in me who have not looked on love,

So fiercely flames; so wildly comes the cry

Of stricken women the warrior's call above,

That I would gladly lay me down and die

To wake again where Helen and Hector move.

II

The falling rain is music overhead,

The dark night, lit by no intruding star,

Fit covering yields to thoughts that roam afar

And turn again familiar paths to tread,

Where many a laden hour too quickly sped

In happier times, before the dawn of war,

Before the spoiler had whet his sword to mar

The faithful living and the mighty dead.

It is not that my soul is weighed with woe,

But rather wonder, seeing they do but sleep.

As birds that in the sinking summer sweep

Across the heaven to happier climes to go,

So they are gone; and sometimes we must weep,

And sometimes, smiling, murmur, "Be it so!"