The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

The Dawn Patrol

Sometimes I fly at dawn above the sea,

Where, underneath, the restless waters flow --

Silver, and cold, and slow,

Dim in the east there burns a new-born sun,

Whose rosy gleams along the ripples run,

Save where the mist droops low,

Hiding the level loneliness from me.

And now appears beneath the milk-white haze

A little fleet of anchored ships, which lie

In clustered company,

And seem as they are yet fast bound by sleep,

Although the day has long begun to peep,

With red-inflam├Ęd eye,

Along the still, deserted ocean ways.

The fresh, cold wind of dawn blows on my face

As in the sun's raw heart I swiftly fly,

And watch the seas glide by.

Scarce human seem I, moving through the skies

And far removed from warlike enterprise --

Like some great gull on high

Whose white and gleaming wings beat on through space.

Then do I feel with God quite, quite alone,

High in the virgin morn, so white and still,

And free from human ill:

My prayers transcend my feeble earth-bound plaints --

As though I sang among the happy Saints

With many a holy thrill --

As though the glowing sun were God's bright Throne.

My flight is done. I cross the line of foam

That break around a town of grey and red,

Whose streets and squares lie dead

Beneath the silent dawn -- then am I proud

That England's peace to guard I am allowed;

Then bow my humble head,

In thanks to Him Who brings me safely home.