The Great War

from Lest We Forget, an electronic edition

The Avengers

To our Soldiers in the Field.

Not only that your cause is just and right --

This much was never doubted; war or play,

We go with clean hands into any fight;

That is our English way; --

Not this high thought alone shall brace your thews

To trample under heel those Vandal hordes

Who laugh when blood of mother and babe imbrues

Their damn├Ęd craven swords.

But here must be hot passion, white of flame,

Pure hate of this unutterable wrong,

Sheer wrath for Christendom so sunk in shame,

To make you trebly strong.

These smoking hearths of fair and peaceful lands,

This reeking trail of deeds abhorred of Hell,

They cry aloud for vengeance at your hands,

Ruthless and swift and fell.

Strike, then -- and spare not -- for the innocent dead

Who lie there, stark beneath the weeping skies,

As though you saw your dearest in their stead

Butchered before your eyes.

And though the guiltless pay for others' guilt

Who preached these brute ideals in camp and Court;

Though lives of brave and gentle foes be spilt,

That loathe this coward sport;

On each, without distinction, worst or best

Fouled by a nation's crime, one doom must fall;

Be you its instrument, and leave the rest

To God, the Judge of all.

Let it be said of you, when sounds at length

Over the final field the victor's strain: --

"They struck at infamy with all their strength,

And earth is clean again!"


To our Soldiers in the Field.