The Great War

from More Songs By the Fighting Men, an electronic edition

Belgium, 1914

I

THE lithe flames flicker through the veil of night,

Licking with bitter tongue; and soon the dawn

Will come, and gaunt and black against the white

Cool sky will loom a smoking home, forlorn

Of all the joy and peace that once was there.

The pleading, pitiful dead lie mute and cold

And all untended still. The fields are bare

Of the young green, the parent of the gold.

O little land, great-hearted, who didst give

Thine all for sake of others' liberty.

Knowing the cost, nor shrinking at the thought,

Be sure that thy immortal name shall live

Writ large in thine own ashes. Men shall cry,

"This was a nation marvellously wrought!"

II

There came a voice from out the darkness crying—

A pleading voice, the voice of one in thrall—

"Come, ye who pass—oh, heed ye not my sighing?

Come and deliver! Hear, oh hear my call!

For when the invader stood before my gate

Demanding passage through with haughty tone,

A voice cried loud, 'Wilt thou endure this fate?

Better have death than live when honour's

flown!'

And so my children now lie slain by him

I had not wronged; with strife my land is riven;

Dishonoured here I lie with fettered limb.

To desecration all my shrines are given.

And nought remains but bondage drear and grim. .

God! Is there any justice under heaven?"