The Great War

from Poems, an electronic edition


If you could bring her glories back!

You gentle sirs who sift the dust

And burrow in the mould and must

Of Babylon for bric-a-brac;

Who catalogue and pigeon-hole

The faded splendours of her soul

And put her greatness under glass--

If you could bring her past to pass!

If you could bring her dead to life!

The soldier lad ; the market wife;

Madam buying fowls from her;

Tip, the butcher's bandy cur;

Workmen carting bricks and clay;

Babel passing to and fro

On the business of a day

Gone three thousand years ago--

That you cannot; then be done,

Put the goblet down again,

Let the broken arch remain,

Leave the dead men's dust alone--

Is it nothing how she lies,

This old mother of you all,

You great cities proud and tall

Towering to a hundred skies

Round a world she never knew,

Is it nothing, this, to you ?

Must the ghoulish work go on

Till her very floors are gone ?

While there's still a brick to save

Drive these people from her grave!

The Jewish seer when he cried

Woe to Babel's lust and pride

Saw the foxes at her gates;

Once again the wild thing waits.

Then leave her in her last decay

A house of owls, a foxes' den;

The desert that till yesterday

Hid her from the eyes of men

In its proper time and way

Will take her to itself again.