The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

The Flag Speaks

RIBBONS of white in the flag of our land,

Say, shall we live in fear?

Speak! For I wait for the word from your lips

Wet with the brine of the sea-going ships;

Speak! Shall we cringe 'neath an Attila's whips?

Speak! For I wait to hear!

''This is our word," said the ribbons of white;

"This is the course to steer--

Peace is our haven for foul or for fair--

Won as a maiden and kept as an heir,

Peace with the sunlight of God on her hair,

Peace, with an honor clear!"

Ribbons of red in the flag of our land,

Bought for a price full dear,

Speak! For 'tis Man that is asking Man,

Churl in the centuries' caravan,

Speak! For he waits for your bold "I can!"

Speak! For he waits to hear!

"This is our word," said the ribbons of red,

Slowly, with gaze austere,

"War if we must in humanity's name,

Shielding a sister from sorrow and shame;

War upon beasts with the sword and with flame!

War--till the judge appear!"

Stars in a field of the sky's own blue,

Light of a midnight year,

Speak! For the spirit of Man awakes,

Shoulders the cross, and his couch forsakes,

Whispers a prayer, and the long way takes,

Speak! For he waits to hear!

"This is our word," said a star of white,

Set in the silken mere,

"Right against Might on the land, on the sea!

Little and Great are the same to me!

Onlv for Truth and for Liberty

Strike! For the hour is here!"