The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

The Conscript

Then former stars were faint and signs were fled.

Dawn flamed and sleepers roused: you saw men's souls

Crowned of that fire with terrible aureoles.

You saw -- and hid your head, and hid your head.

What of you, O Unwilling, shall be said?

England, Beloved,

Say that Pain crowned even mine with all men's souls.

Joyous as guest unto the rose-heaped board,

Dreamful as lover to his dreams' desire,

Steadfast as martyr to the pitiless fire,

My sons, yet not to any task abhorred,

But to love's service, went with one accord.

No less, Beloved,

My heart perforce shall kindle at thy fire.

Toiled in my vineyard since the early sun,

Toiled through the drouth, the ardent heat of noon,

These, my true laborers. Say, who earns my boon,

My honorable wage, my deep Well-done,

He that shall come at rise or set of sun?

Even he, Beloved,

Who serves thee there, whether at eve or noon.

The marriage-feast was spread within my house,

Red flowed the wine, loud rose the eager din.

Prepared for honored guests, the fare therein

Now bids another company carouse.

O heedless, find you welcome in my house?

Even I, Beloved,

Compelled from hedge and highway to come in.

Renownless Christs of a new Calvary,

My children died, love's dearest debt to pay.

Thief, who have filched your peace in vain, to-day

Beside that ransoming love unforced and free,

Perish you not on a most shameful tree?

Not so, Beloved,

For I shall meet thy Dead in heaven to-day.