The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

The Unknown Soldier
Armistice Day At Arlington

THE wind to-day is full of ghosts with ghostly bugles blowing,

Where shadows steal across the world, as silent as the dew.

Where golden youth is yellow dust, by haunted rivers flowing

Through valleys where the crosses grow, as harvest wheat is growing,

And only dead men see the line that passes in review.

The gripping clay once more gives way before the Mighty Mother

Who waits with everlasting arms to guard her sleeping sons.

And lonely mates in silent fields call out to one another

The story of an empty grave, where each has lost a brother,

Who takes the long, long trail at last beyond the rusting guns.

Gently the east wind brought him home to meet the south wind sighing.

Softly the north wind breathes his name that none of us may know.

For only those who fell with him, out in the darkness lying,

Can tell his company or rank, and they are unreplying,

As each dreams on through summer dawns or winter's mantling snow.

Nameless--and yet how gallantly he faced the roaring thunder

Where names were less than star-dust as the crashing steel swept by

To take its endless toll of those the night squad spaded under,

Clod upon clod, beneath the sod that time alone may sunder,

Held where the wind--blown grasses stir beneath an alien sky.

He'll miss, perhaps, the poppy blooms that sway above the clover,

But rose-red wreaths of Arlington bend low above his dreams.

The reveille at dawn is done, the slogging hikes are over,

Where out the friendly lanes of home, a gay and careless rover,

His wild, free spirit seeks the hills and haunts the singing streams.

No more he moves by Meuse or Aisne, some shell-swept river wading,

No marching orders call him from his rough-hewn granite grave.

And when at dusk we hear far off the eerie drum-taps fading,

What hallowed spot holds more than this, with spectral lines parading

Blood of our blood, dust of our dust, "the ashes of our brave''?

There will be tears from watching eyes, where rain and mist are blended,

There will be heartache in the lines where gold-starred mothers wait.

But where the great shells fall no more, what vision is more splendid

Than peace along the once--scarred fields, the last red battle ended,

Peace that he helped to bring again above the twilight gate?

Let valor's minstrel voices sing his fame for future pages,

But when the starless darkness comes and the long silence creeps,

When blossom mists of spring return or winter torrent rages,

Write this above his nameless dust, to last beyond the ages,

"Safe in the Mighty Mother's arms an Unknown Soldier sleeps."