The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

Magpies in Picardy

THE. magpies in Picardy

Are more than I can tell.

They flicker down the dusty roads

And cast a magic spell

On the men who march through Picardy,

Through Picardy to hell.

(The blackbird flies with panic,

The swallow goes like light,

The finches move like ladies,

The owl floats by at night;

But the great and flashing magpie

He flies as artists might.)

A magpie in Picardy

Told me secret things--

Of the music in white feathers,

And the sunlight that sings

And dances in deep shadows--

He told me with his wings.

(The hawk is cruel and rigid,

He watches from a height;

The rook is slow and somber,

The robin loves to fight;

But the great and flashing magpie

He flies as lovers might.)

He told me that in Picardy,

An age ago or more,

While all his fathers still were eggs,

These dusty highways bore

Brown, singing soldiers marching out

Through Picardy to war.

He said that still through chaos

Works on the ancient plan,

And that two things have altered not

Since first the world began-

The beauty of the wild green earth

And the bravery of man.

(For the sparrow flies unthinking

And quarrels in his flight.

The heron trails his legs behind,

The lark goes out of sight;

But the great and flashing magpie

He flies as poets might.)