The Great War

from Lest We Forget, an electronic edition

Honour's Utmost Task.

Clean-stripped for action -- neither overbold,

Nor fearing overmuch what chance may bring --

We join the lists. Let none hereafter hold

We grasped this sword for gain's sake, caste, nor king

Power-crazed to his own people's ruining!

We weighed, but stayed not counting it, our loss

In blood and tears and darkling years to be;

Appraised the instant's faith against the dross

Of gold fear-clenched in base immunity --

The coward shelter of geography; --

And drew for little peoples, for our word

Once given, which we hold inviolate

As these our combes, our downs, our cliffs that heard

The vain Dons thunder at our sea-barred gate

And frowned one true Napoleon to his fate.

Battlers for world-peace, slaves of Honour's lamp,

Tending a Vestal flame which never dies,

We brook no bribe from any traitor camp

That trades, mailed fist on hilt to back its lies,

With broken pledges and with blasphemies!

Wherefore, in dour purged sober earnestness,

Unfactioned, linked, ungrudging each to each,

One People welded for our Empire's stress,

We Warden Nations hie us to the breach;

Nor waste swift hours, that shout for deeds, in speech.

Our blades shall not be sheathed, our banners furled,

Till Honour's utmost task be trebly done;

Till, bright across the devastated world,

New-risen and blood-cleansed, Freedom's sun

Dawns for God's vengeance on the shattered Hun!