The Great War

from Poems of the Great War, an electronic edition

The Wakened God

The War-god wakened drowsily;

There were gold chains about his hands.

He said: "And who shall reap my lands

And bear the tithes to Death for me?

"The nations stilled my thunderings;

They wearied of my steel despair,

The flames from out my burning hair:

Is there an ending of such things?"

Low laughed the Earth, and answered: "When

Was any changeless law I gave

Changed by my sons intent to save,

By puny pitying hands of men?

"I feel no ruth for some I bear....

The swarming, hungering overflow

Of crowded millions, doomed to go,

They must destroy who chained you there.

"For some bright stone or shining praise

They stint a million bodies' breath,

And sell the women, shamed, to death,

And send the men brief length of days.

"They kill the bodies swift for me,

And kill the souls you gave to peace....

You were more merciful than these,

Old master of my cruelty.

"Lo, souls are scarred and virtues dim:

Take back thy scourge of ministry,

Rise from thy silence suddenly,

Lest these still take Death's toll to him!"

The War-God snapped his golden chain:

His mercies thundered down the world,

And lashing battle-lines uncurled

And scourged the crouching lands again.