The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

The Spring in Ireland: 1916

I

Do not forget my charge I beg of you;

That of what flow'rs you find of fairest hue

And sweetest odor you do gather those

Are best of all the best -- a fragrant rose,

A tall calm lily from the waterside,

A half-blown poppy leaning at the side

Its graceful head to dream among the corn,

Forget-me-nots that seem as though the morn

Had tumbled down and grew into the clay,

And hawthorn buds that swing along the way

Easing the hearts of those who pass them by

Until they find contentment. -- Do not cry,

But gather buds, and with them greenery

Of slender branches taken from a tree

Well bannered by the spring that saw them fall:

Then you, for you are cleverest of all

Who have slim fingers and are pitiful,

Brimming your lap with bloom that you may cull,

Will sit apart, and weave for every head

A garland of the fiow'rs you gatheréd.

II

Be green upon their graves, O happy Spring,

For they were young and eager who are dead;

Of all things that are young and quivering

With eager life be they rememberéd:

They move not here, they have gone to the clay,

They cannot die again for liberty;

Be they remembered of their land for aye;

Green be their graves and green their memory.

Fragrance and beauty come in with the green,

The ragged bushes put on sweet attire,

The birds forget how chill these airs have been,

The clouds bloom out again and move in fire;

Blue is the dawn of day, calm is the lake,

And merry sounds are fitful in the morn;

In covert deep the young blackbirds awake,

They shake their wings and sing upon the morn.

At springtime of the year you came and swung

Green flags above the newly-greening earth;

Scarce were the leaves unfolded, they were young,

Nor had outgrown the wrinkles of their birth:

Comrades they thought you of their pleasant hour,

They had but glimpsed the sun when they saw you;

They heard your songs e'er birds had singing power,

And drank your blood e'er that they drank the dew.

Then you went down, and then, and as in pain,

The Spring affrighted fled her leafy ways,

The clouds came to the earth in gusty rain,

And no sun shone again for many days:

And day by day they told that one was dead,

And day by day the season mourned for you,

Until that count of woe was finishéd,

And Spring remembered all was yet to do.

She came with mirth of wind and eager leaf,

With scampering feet and reaching out of wings,

She laughed among the boughs and banished grief,

And cared again for all her baby things;

Leading along the joy that has to be,

Bidding her timid buds think on the May,

And told that Summer comes with victory,

And told the hope that is all creatures' stay.

Go, Winter, now unto your own abode,

Your time is done, and Spring is conqueror

Lift up with all your gear and take your road,

For she is here and brings the sun with her:

Now are we resurrected, now are we,

Who lay so long beneath an icy hand,

New-risen into life and liberty,

Because the Spring is come into our land.

III

In other lands they may,

With public joy or dole along the way,

With pomp and pageantry and loud lament

Of drums and trumpets, and with merriment

Of grateful hearts, lead into rest and sted

The nation's dead.

If we had drums and trumpets, if we had

Aught of heroic pitch or accent glad

To honor you as bids tradition old,

With banners flung or draped in mournful fold,

And pacing cortege; these would we not bring

For your last journeying.

We have no drums or trumpets; naught have we

But some green branches taken from a tree,

And flowers that grow at large in mead and vale;

Nothing of choice have we, or of avail

To do you honor as our honor deems,

And as your worth beseems.

Sleep, drums and trumpets, yet a little time;

All ends and all begins, and there is chime

At last where discord was, and joy at last

Where woe wept out her eyes: be not downcast,

Here is prosperity and goodly cheer,

For life does follow death, and death is here.