The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

Telling the Bees
(An old Gloucestershire superstition)

THEY dug no grave for our soldier lad, who fought and who died out there:

Bugle and drum for him were dumb, and the padre said no prayer;

The passing bell gave never a peal to warn that a soul was fled,

And we laid him not in the quiet spot where cluster his kin that are dead.

But I hear a foot on the pathway, above the low hum of the hive,

That at edge of dark, with the song of the lark, tells that the world is alive:

The master starts on his errand, his tread is heavy and slow,

Yet he cannot choose but tell the news-- the bees have a right to know.

Bound by the ties of a happier day, they are one with us now in our worst;

On the very morn that my boy was born they were told the tidings the first:

With what pride they will hear of the end he made, and the ordeal that he trod

Of he scream of shell, and the venom of hell, and the flame of the sword of God.

Wise little heralds, tell of my boy; in your golden tabard coats

Tell the bank where he slept, and the stream he leapt, where the spangled lily floats:

The tree he climbed shall lift her head, and the torrent he swam shall thrill,

And the tempest that bore his shouts before shall cry his message still.