The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

Summer in England, 1914

On London fell a clearer light;

Caressing pencils of the sun

Defined the distances, the white

Houses transfigured one by one,

The "long, unlovely street" impearled.

O what a sky has walked the world!

Most happy year! And out of town

The hay was prosperous, and the wheat;

The silken harvest climbed the down;

Moon after moon was heavenly sweet,

Stroking the bread within the sheaves,

Looking twixt apples and their leaves.

And while this rose made round her cup,

The armies died convulsed; and when

This chaste young silver sun went up

Softly, a thousand shattered men,

One wet corruption, heaped the plain,

After a league-long throb of pain.

Flower following tender flower, and birds,

And berries; and benignant skies

Made thrive the serried flocks and herds.

Yonder are men shot through the eyes,

And children crushed. Love, hide thy face

From man's unpardonable race.

A Reply

Who said "No man hath greater love than this

To die to serve his friend?"

So these have loved us all unto the end.

Chide thou no more, O thou unsacrificed!

The soldier dying dies upon a kiss,

The very kiss of Christ.