The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

The Retinue

ARCHDUKE FRANCIS FERDINAND, Austrian heir-apparent,

Rideth through the Shadow Land, not a lone knight errant,

But captain of a mighty train, millions upon millions,

Armies of the battle slain, hordes of dim civilians;

German ghosts who see their works with tortured eyes, the sorry

Spectres of sacred tyrants, Turks hunted by their quarry,

Liars, plotters red of hand--like waves of poisonous gases,

Sweeping through the Shadow Land the host of horror passes;

Spirits bright as broken blades drawn for truth and honor,

Sons of Belgium, pallid maids, martyrs who have won her

Love eternal, bleeding breasts of the French defiance,

Russians on enraptured quests, Freedom's proud alliance.

Through that hollow hush of doom, vast, unvisioned regions,

Led by Kitchener of Khartum, march the English legions:

Kilt and shamrock, maple leaf, dreaming Hindu faces,

Brows of glory, eyes of grief, arms of lost embraces.

Like a moaning tide of woe, midst those pale battalions

From the Danube and the Po, Arabs and Australians,

Pours a ghastly multitude that breaks the heart of pity,

Wreckage of some shell-bestrewed waste that was a city;

Flocking from the murderous seas, from the famished lowland,

From the blazing villages of Serbia and Poland,

Woman phantoms, baby wraiths, trampled by war's blindness,

Horses, dogs, that put their faiths in human loving kindness.

Tamburlane, Napoleon, envious Alexander

Peer in wonder at the wan, tragical commander,

Archduke Francis Ferdinand--when shall his train be ended ?--

Of all the lords of Shadow Land most royally attended!