The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

The Red Cross Spirit Speaks

Wherever war, with its red woes,

Or flood, or fire, or famine goes,

There, too, go I;

If earth in any quarter quakes

Or pestilence its ravage makes,

Thither I fly.

I kneel behind the soldier's trench,

I walk 'mid shambles' smear and stench,

The dead I mourn;

I bear the stretcher and I bend

O'er Fritz and Pierre and Jack to mend

What shells have torn.

I go wherever men may dare,

I go wherever woman's care

And love can live,

Wherever strength and skill can bring

Surcease to human suffering,

Or solace give.

I helped upon Haldora's shore;

With Hospitaller Knights I bore

The first red cross;

I was the Lady of the Lamp;

I saw in Solferino's camp

The crimson loss.

I am your pennies and your pounds;

I am your bodies on their rounds

Of pain afar;

I am you, doing what you would

If you were only where you could --

Your avatar.

The cross which on my arm I wear,

The flag which o'er my breast I bear,

Is but the sign

Of what you'd sacrifice for him

Who suffers on the hellish rim

Of war's red line.