The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

From the Youth of All Nations

Think not, my elders, to rejoice

When from the nations' wreck we rise,

With a new thunder in our voice

And a new lightning in our eyes.

You called with patriotic sneers,

And drums and sentimental songs.

We came from out the vernal years

Thus bloodily to right your wrongs.

The sins of many centuries,

Sealed by your indolence and fright,

Have earned us these our agonies:

The thunderous appalling night

When from the lurid darkness came

The pains of poison and of shell,

The broken heart, the world's ill-fame,

The lonely arrogance of hell.

Faintly, as from a game afar,

Your wrangles and your patronage

Come drifting to the work of war

Which you have made our heritage.

Oh, chide us not. Not ours the crime.

Oh, praise us not. It is not won,

The fight which we shall make sublime

Beneath an unaccustomed sun.

The simple world of childhood fades

Beyond the Styx that all have passed;

This is a novel land of shades,

Wherein no ancient glories last.

A land of desolation, blurred

By mists of penitence and woe,

Where every hope must be deferred

And every river backward flow.

Not on this grey and ruined plain

Shall we obedient recall

Your cities to rebuild again

For their inevitable fall.

We kneel at no ancestral shrine.

With admirable blasphemy

We desecrate the old divine

And dream a new eternity.

Destroy the history of men,

The weary cycle of decay.

We shall not pass that way again,

We tread a new untrodden way.

Though scattered wider yet our youth

On every sea and continent,

There shall come bitter with the truth

A fraction of the sons you sent.

When slowly with averted head,

Some darkly, some with halting feet,

And bowed with mourning for the dead

We walk the cheering, fluttering street,

A music terrible, austere

Shall rise from our returning ranks

To change your merriment to fear,

And slay upon your lips your thanks;

And on the brooding weary brows

Of stronger sons, close enemies,

Are writ the ruin of your house

And swift usurping dynasties.