The Great War

from Late Songs, an electronic edition

The Children's War

This is the Children's War, because

The victory's to the young and clean.

Up to the Dragon's ravening jaws

Run dear Eighteen and Seventeen.

Fresh from the Chrisom waters pure,

Dear boys, so eager to attain

To the bright visions that allure,

The fierce ordeal, the red pain.

The light is yet upon their curls:

The dream is still within their eyes;

Their cheeks are silken as a girl's,

The little Knights of Paradise.

O men with many scars and stains,

Stand back, abase your souls and pray!

For now to Nineteen are the gains

And golden Twenty wins the day.

Brown heads with curls all rippled over,

Young bodies slender as a flame,

They leap to darkness like a lover;

To Twenty-One is fall'n the game.

It is the Boys' War. Praise be given

To Percivale and Galahad

Who have won earth and taken Heaven.

By violence! Weep not, but be glad.