The Great War

from Songs & Sonnets for England in War Time, an electronic edition

Dies Irae

To the German Kaiser

Amazing Monarch! who at various times,

Posing as Europe's self-appointed saviour,

Afforded copy for our ribald rhymes

By your behaviour;

We nursed no malice; nay, we thanked you much

Because your head-piece, swollen like a tumour,

Lent to a dullish world the needed touch

Of saving humour.

What with your wardrobes stuffed with warrior gear,

Your gander-step parades, your prancing Prussians,

Your menaces that shocked the deafened sphere

With rude concussions;

Your fist that turned the pinkest rivals pale

Alike with sceptre, chisel, pen or palette,

And could at any moment, gloved in mail,

Smite like a mallet;

Master of all the Arts, and, what was more,

Lord of the limelight blaze that let us know it --

You seemed a gift designed on purpose for

The flippant poet.

Time passed and put to these old jests an end;

Into our open hearts you found admission,

Ate of our bread and pledged us like a friend

Above suspicion.

You shared our griefs with seeming-gentle eyes;

You moved among us cousinly entreated;

Still hiding, under that fair outward guise,

A heart that cheated.

And now the mask is down, and forth you stand

Known for a King whose word is no great matter,

A traitor proved, for every honest hand

To strike and shatter.

This was the "Day" foretold by yours and you

In whispers here, and there with beery clamours --

You and your rat-hole spies and blustering crew

Of loud Potsdamers.

And lo, there dawns another, swift and stern,

When on the wheels of wrath, by Justice' token,

Breaker of God's own Peace, you shall in turn

Yourself be broken.

Punch, August 19, 1914