The Great War

from Lest We Forget, an electronic edition

Abi, Viator --.

If thou hast seen the standard dim

Droop in its mesh of dust and grime

Above the carven hands of him

Who bore it in some ancient time;

If thou hast seen the silent sword

Rust redly in its tattered sheath,

Hast caught the echo of the word

That flung an English glove at death,

And yet thy pulses march unstirred,

And still thy breath comes calm and slow,

Pass on -- no Englishman art thou!

If thou canst hear and see to-day

The distant clamour and the fume

Of crimson fate, and yet canst say

"The gain is mine, be theirs the doom."

If thou thy unthrilled hands canst fold,

If thou canst check thy seaward tread,

Canst shun the dust and guard the gold,

Thou hast no kinship with thy dead;

Ah! if thy craven heart is cold,

Pause not the perilous page to scan --

Pass on -- thou art no Englishman!

But if the distant unison

Of swooping sword and flying dart,

Of straining sail and muttering gun,

Touches thy spirit and thy heart;

If England's day and England's call

Find thee a son of England, then

Thou canst not falter -- thou, nor all

Her noble heritage of men;

Pass on -- she stands, although we fall,

Pass on unshaken though stars shake --

Thyself canst tell what road to take!