The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

To My Son

A poem, anonymous, sent to the Chicago Evening Post by one whose son's regiment was leaving for France.

MY son, at last the fateful day has come

For us to part. The hours have nearly run.

May God return you safe to land and home;

Yet, what God wills, so may His will be done.

Draw tight the belt about your slender frame;

Flash blue your eyes! Hold high your proud young head!

Today you march in Liberty's fair name,

To save the line enriched by France's dead!

I would not it were otherwise. And yet

'Tis hard to speed your marching forth, my son!

'Tis doubly hard to live without regret

For love unsaid, and kindnesses undone.

But would the chance were mine with you to stand

Upon those shores and see our flag unfurled!

To fight on France's brave, unconquered land

With Liberty's great sword for all the world!

Beyond the waves, my son, the siren calls,

The sky is black and Fastnet lies abreast;

A signal rocket flings its stars and falls

Across the night to welcome England's guest.

When mid the scud you see the Cornish lights,

And through the mist you hear faint Devon chimes,

I hank God for memories of those other nights

And days on other ships in happier times.

Perhaps you'll stand within the pillared nave

And aisles where colored sundust falls, and see

Old Canterbury Church where Becket gave

His life's best blood for England's liberty!

Some night you'll walk, perhaps, on Salisbury plain

Above Stonehenge the Druid's stars still sleep,

And on the turf within the circled fane

Beneath the autumn moon still lie the sheep.

And if you march beside some Kentish hedge,

And blackberries hang thick clustered o'er the ways,

Hick down a branch! Rest by the road's brown edge;

Eat! Nor forget our last vacation days!

And then the trench in battle-scarred Lorraine;

The town half burned but held in spite of hell;

The bridge twice taken, lost, and won again;

The cratered glacis ripped with mine and shell.

The leafless trees, bare-branched in spite of June;

The sodden road, the desolated plain;

The mateless birds, the season out of tune;

Fair France, at bay, is calling through her pain.

Oh, son! My son! God keep you safe and free

Our flag and you! But if the hour must come

To choose at last 'twixt self and liberty

We'll close our eyes! So let God's will be done!

Notes

A poem, anonymous, sent to the Chicago Evening Post by one whose son's regiment was leaving for France.