The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

Somewhere in France, 1918

LEAVE me alone here, proudly, with my dead,

Ye mothers of brave sons adventurous;

He who once prayed: "If it be possible

Let this cup pass," will arbitrate for us.

Your boy with iron nerves and careless smile

Marched gaily by and dreamed of glory's goal;

Mine had blanched cheek, straight mouth and close-gripped hands

And prayed that somehow he might save his soul.

I do not grudge your ribbon or your cross,

The price of these my soldier, too, has paid;

I hug a prouder knowledge to my heart,

The mother of the boy who was afraid!

He was a tender child with nerves so keen

They doubled pain and magnified the sad;

He hated cruelty and things obscene

And in all high and holy things was glad.

And so he gave what others could not give,

The one supremest sacrifice he made,

A thing your brave boy could not understand;

He gave his all because he was afraid!