The Great War

from More Songs By the Fighting Men, an electronic edition


HOW young and bright he was, and when he


The air around seemed sharing in his joy;

Fair was the world to him, nor spot nor stain

Of all its hidden ugliness had laid

A mark upon his face (that mark that sears

And brands the souls that know it but too well);

But all that's lovely in it lay beneath

The wonder that shone shyly in his eyes.

A child of Nature he, of woods and sunlit ways.

Of rolling meadows where the air was sweet

With new-born blossoms and the scent of hay;

Of hills and valleys, laughing streams and lakes

Where rustling reeds their whispered secrets told.

All these he knew and loved, they were his friends,

His sole companions, and through them he learnt

To know his mother Nature; all her moods

Diverse and strange he learnt them one by one;

Her summer laughter and her autumn tears.

Her seeming winter harshness and the sweet

Serene repentance of her early spring.

Life was his love, and in her warm soft arms

He freedom found from care, repose and peace.

And finding knew that it sufficed.

And then came War to claim him, dragged him forth.

Forth from his quiet world, and flung him down

Bewildered and amazed, yet unafraid.

The merest cypher in that crowded train.

So hour by hour the meanness of War,

And all its horrors, petty hates and sins

Raged round his struggling head, until the day

A wandering bullet found him, and Death took

Unto himself what Life once held so dear.

His face was smiling when they picked him up

As though he'd learnt his Mother's last great secret

And in learning found all well.