The Great War

from Lest We Forget, an electronic edition

Winter Night.

Roams the East wind across a midnight sky,

And shapes of cloud, transparent, curdled, white,

Like homing spirits take their lowly flight

Before his breath; but glittering on high

A throb of winter stars doth chequer heaven with light.

Here, underneath the Hunter, all is still,

And silver Sirius sparkles at his feet;

While nearer, children of the earth, they fleet --

Those sad, etiolate clouds along the hill --

As though our dead returned their native land to greet.

How may one slumber, how the curtain close

And shut them out and turn to blessed rest,

While, panging like a poison in the breast,

Their agony for ever flows and flows?

By day, by night they fall, our bravest and our best.

O little clouds, the stars ye cannot hide,

Yet shadow in your impotence a plea

Mightier than all the night's immensity

Hath power to conjure of her pomp and pride:

The claim of men who die that man may still go free.

Your vapours sink to earth; down from his height,

Flashing red gold, each ancient star departs;

Chill Eurus droops at dawn's approaching darts;

For clouds and stars and winds shall pass with night;

The ever living dead shine on within our hearts.