The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

Two Sonnets

I

Saints have adored the lofty soul of you.

Poets have whitened at your high renown.

We stand among the many millions who

Do hourly wait to pass your pathway down.

You, so familiar, once were strange: we tried

To live as of your presence unaware.

But now in every road on every side

We see your straight and steadfast signpost there.

I think it like that signpost in my land

Hoary and tall, which pointed me to go

Upward, into the hills, on the right hand,

Where the mists swim and the winds shriek and blow,

A homeless land and friendless, but a land

I did not know and that I wished to know.

II

Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:

Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,

A merciful putting away of what has been.

And this we know: Death is not Life effete,

Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen

So marvellous things know well the end not yet.

Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:

Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,

"Come, what was your record when you drew breath?"

But a big blot has hid each yesterday

So poor, so manifestly incomplete.

And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,

Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet

And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.

June 12, 1915