The Great War

from More Songs By the Fighting Men, an electronic edition


HAVE you ridden alone in the country ever

By the dusty light of the harvest-moon?

—Cycled intent in a vain endeavour

To match your speed to your soul's quick tune

When there's never a sound to break the magic;

For the tyres' crisp whir on the powdered road

And the hoot of an owl in the distance, tragic,

Are pricking your heart with a fairy goad?

Then the hawthorn hedges, sweet dissembling,

Stealthily close on your path, till fear

Of their dense bulk looms; and your heartsick


Shakes into stillness as you swing clear.

Then the high haw-hedges furious will bide.

Drawing back from the light of the moon:

But the black trees haste down the silver hillside.

You know in your heart that you laughed too soon,

They reach the roadside; and, leaning over.

Wait for your coming. A swerving flash

Through their clutching fingers—then dreamin


And corn amazed at your passing dash

Over the bridge as the water glides black

Darker than death in a dream: then pales.

The enchanted ground from the village slides bad

Voices and lights: and the magic fails.