The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

The Crimson Cross

OUTSIDE the ancient city's gate

Upon Golgotha's crest

Three crosses stretched their empty arms,

Etched dark against the west.

And blood from nail--pierced hands and feet

And tortured thorn-crowned head

And thrust of hatred's savage spear

Had stained one dark cross red.

Emblem of shame and pain and death

It stood beside the way,

But sign of love and hope and life

We lift it high today.

Where horror grips the stoutest heart,

Where bursting shells shriek high,

Where human bodies shrapnel scourged

By thousands suffering lie;

Threading the shambles of despair,

Mid agony and strife,

Come fleetest messengers who wear

The crimson cross of life.

To friend and foe alike they give

Their strength and healing skill,

For those who wear the crimson cross

Must "do the Master's will."

Can we, so safely sheltered here,

Refuse to do our part?

When some who wear the crimson cross

Are giving life and heart

To succor those who bear our flag,

Who die that we may live

Shall we accept their sacrifice

And then refuse to give?

Ah, no! Our debt to God and man

We can, we will fulfill,

For we, who wear the crimson cross,

Must "do the Master's will."