The Great War

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

The Man Forsworn

Who draws to-day the unrighteous sword?

Behold him stand, the Man Forsworn,

The warrior of the faithless word,

The pledge disowned, the covenant torn,

Who prates of honour, truth, and trust,

Ere he profanes them in the dust.

When to yon fabric grey in fame,

That Windsor lifts against the sky,

In martial cloak the Kaiser came,

We did not dream it cloaked a spy;

Yet there he sat, as now we know,

A guest, a kinsman, and a foe.

France was a gallant foe and fair,

That looked us proudly in the face,

With her frank eyes and freeborn air,

And valour half-concealed in grace.

Noblest of all with whom we strove,

At last she gives us noble love.

But he that took our proffered hand,

Thinking to take our birthright too,

He, in this hospitable land,

Bore him as only dastards do.

Here, where the Earth still nurtures men,

His hand shall soil not ours again.

We know his people great and strong;

On such as these we cast no slur;

Our wonder is that they so long

Suffer ungalled his bit and spur.

'Tis with no heart of joy that we

Arise to smite them on the sea.

Glory we count of lesser worth

Than wife and babe and hearth and home;

Theirs is the mandate speeding forth

Our steps of thunder on the foam;

For them we fight, for them we stand,

Yea, and for faith 'twixt land and land.

You that have linked your might with ours,

To break his pride who breaks the laws,

You wear today, 'mid perjured Powers,

The armour of a spotless cause;

Your legions march in Truth arrayed,

And knightly Honour whets your blade.

From Baltic or Biscayan shores

Where Loire to the Atlantic runs;

Where Volga to the Caspian pours,

You have not poured in vain your sons.

From laughing lands of Rhone and Seine

You have not poured your sons in vain.

Let us a League of Man proclaim

Against such knavery 'neath a crown

As would be rightly held to shame

A swineherd and his fellow clown.

Shall all the false and creeping things

Find a last refuge among Kings?

At least on this unageing throne,

That baffles the long siege of Time,

We have a monarch of our own

To whom a crime is still a crime;

And pure in aim there sits afar

The patient, silent, storm-worn Czar.

For one sole mortal it remained,

One rash insulter of the Earth,

To teach the world wherein he reigned

How much a Kaiser's word is worth.

A Kaiser's word, a Caitiff's vow!

Well have we learned their value now.

Over the bland and kindly Day,

Unseasonable Night he flings;

Sinister darkness blear and grey,

A horror of malignant wings.

Pain and red havoc he bestows

On them that only asked repose.

He is not hungrier for your lands

Than he is thirsty for your seas.

Smite him with all your thunderous hands,

Fight him and smite him to his knees --

You that on him and falsehood hurled

Shall guard the fortress of the world.

Daily Chronicle, August 14, 1914