The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

Belgium the Bar-Lass

The night was still. The King sat with the Queen.

She sang. Her maidens spun. A peaceful scene.

Sudden, wild echoes shake the castle wall.

Their foes come crashing through the outer hall.

They rush like thunder down the gallery floor...

...Someone has stolen the bolt that bars the door!

No pin to hold the loops, no stick, no stave,

Nothing! An open door, an open grave!

Then Catherine Bar-lass thrust her naked arm

(A girl's arm, white as milk, alive and warm)

Right through the loops from which the bolt was gone:

"'Twill hold (she said) until they break the bone --

My King, you have one instant to prepare!"

She said no more, because the thrust was there.

Oft have I heard that tale of Scotland's King

The Poet, and Kate the Bar-lass. (Men will sing

For aye the deed one moment brings to birth --

Such moments are the ransom of our Earth.)

Brave Belgium, Bar-lass of our western world,

Who, when the treacherous Prussian tyrant hurled

His hordes against our peace, thrust a slight hand,

So firm, to bolt our portals and withstand,

Whatever prove the glory of our affray,

Thine arm, thy heart, thine act have won the day!