The Great War

from War: an Ode And Other Poems, an electronic edition

City of Granite Tower


City of granite tower and granite spire,

Of grim, indomitable granite will,

Deep in your granite heart the cosmic fire

Is burning still,

Building immortal mountains for the world,

New Sinais and new Pisgahs; and unfurled--

Magnificently whirled

By tempests of your pity, and your ire

Like leaping flame athwart the heavens blown--

I see the banners of your fierce desire

To set white Freedom on a lofty throne,

Made as of granite stone,

And as by surges of your Northern Sea,

Girt by your souls and swords impregnably;

And gleaming bright,

Crimson and white

Like surf that breaks upon your granite coasts,

Tinged by a sunrise red,

I see great hosts

Of men and ghosts--

The armies of your living and your dead.

I hear the rhythmic pulsing ocean tread

Of thousands of triumphant marching feet;

I hear the thundering, tremendous beat

Of thousands of heroic hearts whose blood

Rolls like a crimson flood,

Drawn by a splendid dream,

Injustice to avenge, dishonour to redeem.


From Ben Muick Dhui gaunt and grey,

From granite cairns of Lochnagar,

From Buchan Ness

And Dyce and Dess,

From Cruden Bay

And Craigievar,

From moors of Dinnet and Braemar,

From banks of Dee and banks of Don,

From Callater and Loch Kinord,

O'er purple heath and thymy sward,

A surging sea of soul and sword,

I see them flowing, flaming on.


Boys of the moor, and of the field,

Boys of the office, and the plough,

From castle, college, manse, and bield,

With hero's heart and dreamer's brow,

I see them marching, marching now.

I see them by the crumbling crown

Of "Kings," and where the granite spires

Of "Marischal" soar like altar fires

Above the traffic of the town,

In leafy lane and stony street,

Their white and crimson surge I meet,

A torrent flowing, flowing down

To the rhythmic fall of marching feet.


I who have felt the North-Sea brine

Upon my lips, whose eyes have seen

The sunlight and the moonlight shine

On the white streets of Aberdeen--

I who have walked in scarlet gown

Beneath the crumbling granite crown,

Who still in fancy and in dreams

Climb Lochnagar

And hear afar

The music of its mountain streams,

Whose heart is still

In every rill,

Whose hopes wade knee-deep in the heather--

Surely I know

Where these boys go.

My soul and theirs must go together,

That mine their blood and mine their breath,

Their fame, their shame, their life, their death.