The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

Brothers in Arms

When behind her violated border,

With unflinching bayonet and gun,

Belgium, in heroic battle order,

Met the savage onset of the Hun;

When o'er league on league of peaceful tillage,

Under screaming showers of shot and shell,

Into open town, defenceless village,

He let loose his shameless hounds of Hell;

When Li├Ęge, henceforth a name immortal!

Perished fighting at his cannons' mouth,

When he seized Namur, and through her portal,

Drunk with fury, still went surging south;

When with murderous rapine still unsated,

Sworn to bend them to his bloody yoke,

On the French and British Arms belated

Wave on wave his braggart legions broke;

When, outmarched before him, into distance,

Frank and Briton steadfastly withdrew,

Though he could not pierce our proud resistance,

Break our firm-linked, friendly phalanx through;

Then our country, roused to righteous reason

By the battle-thunder at her gate,

Flung abroad no foolish cry of treason

At the Rulers of her arms and State --

Pardoned those whose eyes were proven blinder

Than was Wisdom to the approach of war --

Put her unpreparedness behind her,

Only bade us look, henceforth, before.

Therefore, every cry of party faction

Into patriot silence fell away;

Britain summoned all her sons to action --

Suffering Britain -- could we but obey?

Then the adamantine cable stretching,

Python-like across the ocean floor,

Aid on aid from her far children fetching,

Bade her heart with hope beat high once more;

Till the friends and foes whose fine derision

Long had flouted her Imperial dream,

Stood at gaze to mark the stately vision

Rise incarnate o'er the ocean stream;

Marvelling, while above the pine-fringed waters,

While above the palm-set Austral earth

At their Mother's call, her mighty daughters,

Sprang, as Pallas sprang, full-armed to birth;

While, O proudest Page in all the story

Of Imperial India's book of life!

One by one each Princely Feudatory

In our service arms him for the strife.

Our retreat is stayed, and Frank and Briton,

Reinforced, leap forth to the attack --

Now the smiter hip and thigh is smitten;

In defeat we roll him roughly back.

Now again in anger dour he rallies,

And again assaults us flank and front;

While his dead and ours o'er hills and valleys

Mix amid the dreadful battle brunt.

Up the slopes his batteries are crowning,

Foot by foot we dig our trenches in;

Rise and charge and seize his cannon frowning,

Though we fall in swaths one gun to win.

Trusting surely that how oft soever

Back and forth War's crimson waves may flow,

On our faithful, chivalrous endeavor

Victory's full-orbed sun at last shall glow.