The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

England's Dead

("Make them to be numbered with thy Saints: in glory everlasting.")

Homeward the long ships leap; swift-shod with joy,

Striding the deep sea-dykes fast home they fare, --

Where is my wedded love? Where is my boy?

Where go the dead that died for England, where?

Homeward the long ships leap; but not with these

Thy boy, thy wedded love, O gentle-eyed

Woman of England, nor far over seas

Mixing with dull earth sleep the dead that died

For England. They, in God's completed aims,

Bear each his part; unseen of bounded sight,

Down the vast firmament there floats and flames,

Crested with stars and panoplied in light,

Of strenuous clean souls a long array,

With lambent lance and white, bright, blinding sword,

All riding upon horses, -- what are they?

They are the dead which died in Christ their Lord

For England, from old time; with God made one,

As on the mount the triple vision shone,

So shine they now, and like the noontide sun

Before them all the fair Saint George rides on.

There goes the boy of Créçy whispering low

To him of Agincourt, a kingly pair,

With many mighty men which bent the bow, --

There go the dead that died for England, there;

There go those quenchless Talbots, there the flower

Of Devon, Grenville, Gilbert, mariners rare,

She too who thought foul scorn of Philip's power, --

There go the dead that died for England, there;

And Sidney who the rippling cup resigned,

And happy Wolfe; wan Pitt released from care,

Nelson the well-beloved and all his kind, --

There go the dead that died for England, there;

And he who brake the Corsican's strong spell,

And Nicholson, impatient of despair,

And Gordon, faithful, desolate sentinel, --

There go the dead that died for England, there;

And there unhelmeted, ungirt of brand,

Victoria moves with mild, maternal air,

Still vigilant, still prayerful for the land, --

There go the dead that died for England, there.

Nor ride they idly nor with indolent rein,

Irresolute, as men that seek no foe,

But by the pathless sea, by peak and plain,

Bright-eyed, stern-lipped, all day, all night, they go

Forth as a fire that snatches arid devours

Wind-withered woods, so go they swift and fell,

Warring with principalities and powers,

Hunting through space the swart, old bands of Hell;

And all the sounding causeways of the spheres

Ring like white iron with the rhythmic tread

Of these and their innumerable peers;

But most round England muster England's dead,

Round England cradled in her roaring seas,

With Arctic snows white-girdled, bathed in suns

Asian and Australasian, there go these;

And where one solitary trader runs

His English keel, and where one lonely sword

Glimmers for England, one unsleeping brain

Watches and works for England, thitherward

Gather the bright souls of her servants slain

For her, and lock their shimmering ranks, and sweep

Round England's child as sweeps the northern gale

Round some stark pine-tree on the moorland steep,

And from the flash and rattle of their mail

Hell's pale marauders shudderingly recoil

Frustrate. O glad condition and sublime

Of our undying dead, to fight and foil

The ancient foe, continually to climb

Through God's high order of His Saints, to meet

Some soul whose star-like name lit all their course,

And commune with him, to discern and greet

Old kindred, love, and friendship, hound and horse;

To see God face to face, and still to see

And labor for the loves that grope on earth,

To wait serenely till all souls shall be

One in God's aristocracy of worth, --

O glad condition and sublime! whereto

That southern tomb thy hands may never tend

Was but the gateway thy loved boy passed through,

Thy wedded love passed through, that he might wend

Homeward to thee; thou can'st not see the blaze

Of his great blade nor hear his trumpets blare,

Yet thick as brown leaves round about thy ways,

There go the dead that died for England, there.