The Great War

from The Holy War, an electronic edition

The Only Son

His mother died last year and yet

She wearied Heaven with fear and fret,

Wanting the son she left behind,

And God was patient, being kind.

He was so beautiful, so young,

Slender as a tall tree, wind-swung;

Innocent, gay: she went in fear

Something might hurt him, lacking her.

She heard amid the starry mirth

Rumour of dreadful things on earth.

Of sweet youth slain and beauty marred

Beyond all balm and spikenard.

Oh, had she visions of his plight

Lying in the red rain at night

Amid the piteous heap of slain,

That she was wild with fear and pain?

God gives His angels. But she went

Uncomforted and discontent.

Because no angel ever knew

The way to love that mothers do.

And so she wearied Heaven with prayer,

Her knees for ever on God's stair,

Her troubled thoughts for ever abeat

Like wings about the Mercy-Seat.

At last God heard her. Swift as the wind

His messenger went forth to find

Her son and bring him to her breast

So that at last her heart might rest.

She died a year ago and still

Her cup of Heaven's untasted till

God's messenger returns to say:

"He fell in action yesterday."