The Great War

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

The Call

Lad, with the merry smile and the eyes

Quick as a hawk's and clear as the day,

You, who have counted the game the prize,

Here is the game of games to play.

Never a goal -- the captains say --

Matches the one that's needed now:

Put the old blazer and cap away --

England's colours await your brow.

Man, with the square-set jaws and chin,

Always, it seems, you have moved to your end

Sure of yourself, intent to win

Fame and wealth and the power to bend --

All that you've made you're called to spend,

All that you've sought you're asked to miss --

What's ambition compared with this

That a man lay down his life for his friend?

Dreamer, oft in your glancing mind

Brave with drinking the faerie brew,

You have smitten the ogres blind

When the fair Princess cried out to you.

Dreamer, what if your dreams are true?

Yonder's a bayonet, magical, since

Him whom it strikes, the blade sinks through --

Take it and strike for England, Prince!

Friend with the face so hard and worn,

The Devil and you have sometime met,

And now you curse the day you were born,

And want one boon of God -- to forget.

Ah, but I know, and yet -- and yet --

I think, out there in the shrapnel spray,

You shall stand up and not regret

The Life that gave so splendid a day.

Lover of ease, you've lolled and forgot

All the things that you meant to right;

Life has been soft for you, has it not?

What offer does England make to-night?

This -- to toil and to march and to fight

As never you've dreamed since your life began;

This -- to carry the steel-swept height,

This -- to know that you've played the man!

Brothers, brothers, the time is short,

Nor soon again shall it so betide

That a man may pass from the common sort

Sudden and stand by the heroes' side.

Are there some that being named yet bide? --

Hark once more to the clarion call --

Sounded by him who deathless died --

"This day England expects you all."

Times, August 19, 1914