The Great War

from Songs & Sonnets for England in War Time, an electronic edition

Hymn After Battle

I

Lord of this blood-drenched battle plain,

Lord of the foe our hands have slain

Glory to Thee amidst the dead,

That Thou hast still Thy people led,

And shattered thus, O Lord benign,

This people that was also Thine!

Lord of our high, triumphant state,

Lord of the hearths made desolate --

Shall they not praise Thee, they that rue

Beside those hearths the dead we slew?

Yea, at Thine altar let them bow,

God of their dead and them art Thou!

Lord of the darkness and the sun,

While we give thanks for victory won,

Surely each blackening wound that gapes

Here in these broken human shapes,

Mouths but its praise of all Thy powers!

Thou wert their God no less than ours.

II

Yet is it well that men to-day

Recrown their fathers' god of clay?

Yet is it well that from his sleep

The savage in our blood should leap

To flatter from this reeking sod

The spirit of his primal god?

Nay, we were best be mute, and raise

No blasphemy of boastful praise,

Scatter no incense on the air,

Nor lift our reddened hands in prayer,

But dig the earth our steps defame,

And hide these trophies of our shame.

Silence the braggart lips that call

The brute that slumbers in us all

Back to the ravening triumph foul

Of rending claws and bloody jowl --

Lest we forget the heights sublime,

And lapse into our ancient slime.

Daily Herald, August 6, 1914

Notes

[The Kaiser has been thanking God for his successes; and whilst the Christian nations of Europe are engaged in murdering each other, the heathen, whom they have failed to convert, remain so ignorant of the gospel that they are still living together in peace.]