The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

Men Have Wings at Last

(Air-Craft and the War)

"Wolf, Wolf-stay-at-home,

Prowler, -- scout,

Clanless and castaways,

And ailing with the drought,

Out from your hidings, -- hither to the call;

Lift up your eyes to the high wind-fall!

Lift up your eyes from the poisoned spring;

Overhead, -- overhead! The dragon Thing,

-- What should it bring?

-- Poising on the wing?"

"Wolf, Wolf, Old one, I saw it, even I.

Yesterday, yesterday, the Thing came by

Prowling at the outpost of the last lean wood,

By the gray waste ashes where the minster stood;

And out through the cloister where the belfry fronts

The market-place, and the town was once;

High, -- high above the bright wide square

And the folk all flocking together, unaware,

The Thing-with-the-wings came there.

Brother Vulture saw it

And called me, as it passed:

'Look and see, look and see, --

Men have wings at last.'

"By the eyeless belfry I saw it, overhead,

Poised like a hawk, -- like a storm unshed.

Near the huddled doves there, from the shattered cote,

I watched too.... And it smote!

"Not a threat of thunder, -- not an armèd man,

Where the fury struck, and the fleet fire ran. --

But girl-child, man-child, mothers and their young,

Newborn of woman, with milk upon its tongue;

Nursling where it clung.

"Not a talon reached they, yet, the lords of prey!

But left the red dregs there, rent and cast away;

Fled from the spoils there, scattered things accurst:

-- It was not for hunger;

It was not for thirst.

"From the eyeless belfry,

Brother Vulture laughed:

'This is all we have to see

For his mastercraft?

-- Old ones, and lean ones,

Never now to fast,

Men have wings at last!'

"Brought they any tidings for us from the Sun?"

"No, my chief, not one."

"Left they not a road-sign, how the way was won?"

"No, my chief, none.

But girl-child, man-child, creature yet unborn,

Doe and fawn together so, weltering and torn,

Newborn of woman where the flag-stones bled;

(Better can the vultures do, for the shamèd dead.)

Road-dust sobbing where the lightning burst --

It was not for hunger;

It was not for thirst."

"Brought they not some token that the stars look on?"

-- "No, my chief, none."

"Never yet a message from the highways overhead?"

-- "Brother, I have said."

"Old years, gray years, years of growing things,

We have toiled and kept the watch with our wonderings;

But to see what things should be, when that Men had wings.

"Sea-mark, sea-wall, -- ships above the tide;

Mine and mole-way under-earth, to have its hidden pride; --

Not enough, not enough; more and more beside!

"Bridle, for our proud-of-mane, -- then the triple yoke;

Ox-goad and lash again, and bonded fellow-folk!

Not enough; not enough; -- for his master-stroke.

Thunder trapped and muttering and led away for thrall;

Lightnings leashed together then, at his beck and call;

Not enough; not enough; -- for his Wherewithal!

"He must look with evil eye

On the spaces of the sky:

He must scheme, and try! --

While all we, with dread and awe,

Sheathing and unsheathing claw,

Watch apart, and prophesy

That we never saw. --

"Wings, to seek his more-and-more

Where we knew us blind;

Wings to make him conqueror,

With his master-mind;

Wings, that he out-watch, -- out-soar,

Eagle and his kind!

"Lo, the dream fulfilled at last! -- And the dread outgrown,

Broken, as a bird's heart; -- fallen as a stone

....What was he, to make afraid?

-- Hating all that he had made?

-- Hating all his own.

"Scatter to your strongholds, till the race is run.

Doe and fawn together, so, soon it will be done.

Never now, never now, Ship without a mast,

In the harbors of the Sun, do you make fast!

But the floods shall cleanse again

Every blackened trail of Men, --

Men with wings, at last!"