The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

The Gentlemen of Oxford

THE sunny streets of Oxford

Are lying still and bare.

No sound of voice or laughter

Rings through the golden air;

And, chiming from her belfry,

No longer Christchurch calls

The eager, boyish faces

To gather in her halls.

The colleges are empty.

Only the sun and wind

Make merry in the places

The lads have left behind.

But, when the trooping shadows

Have put the day to flight,

The Gentlemen of Oxford

Come homing through the night.

From France they come, and Flanders,

From Mons, and Marne and Aisne.

From Greece and from Gallipoli

They come to her again;

From the North Sea's grey waters,

From many a grave unknown,

The Gentlemen of Oxford

Come back to claim their own.

The dark is full of laughter,

Boy laughter, glad and young.

They tell the old-time stories,

The old-time songs are sung;

They linger in her cloisters,

They throng her dewy meads,

Till Isis hears their calling

And laughs among her reeds.

But, when the east is whitening

To greet the rising sun,

And slowly, over Carfax,

The stars fade, one by one,

Then, when the dawn-wind whispers

Along the Isis shore,

The Gentlemen of Oxford

Must seek their graves once more.