The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

Chaplain to the Forces

["I have once more to remark upon the devotion to duty, courage, and contempt of danger which has characterized the work of the Chaplains of the Army throughout this campaign." -- Sir John French, in the Nueve Chapelle dispatch.]

Ambassador of Christ you go

Up to the very gates of Hell,

Through fog of powder, storm of shell,

To speak your Master's message: "Lo,

The Prince of Peace is with you still,

His peace be with you, His good-will."

It is not small, your priesthood's price,

To be a man and yet stand by,

To hold your life while others die,

To bless, not share the sacrifice,

To watch the strife and take no part --

You with the fire at your heart.

But yours, for our great Captain Christ,

To know the sweat of agony,

The darkness of Gethsemane,

In anguish for these souls unpriced.

Vicegerent of God's pity you,

A sword must pierce your own soul through.

In the pale gleam of new-born day,

Apart in some tree-shadowed place,

Your altar but a packing-case,

Rude as the shed where Mary lay,

Your sanctuary the rain-drenched sod,

You bring the kneeling soldier God.

As sentinel you guard the gate

'Twixt life and death, and unto death

Speed the brave soul whose failing breath

Shudders not at the grip of Fate,

But answers, gallant to the end,

"Christ is the Word -- and I his friend."

Then God go with you, priest of God,

For all is well and shall be well.

What though you tread the roads of Hell,

Your Captain these same ways has trod.

Above the anguish and the loss

Still floats the ensign of His Cross.

Notes

["I have once more to remark upon the devotion to duty, courage, and contempt of danger which has characterized the work of the Chaplains of the Army throughout this campaign." -- Sir John French, in the Nueve Chapelle dispatch.]