The Great War

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


YOU who wait on the Lord

You who pray for a prize,

You who claim a reward,

Have you nor ears, nor eyes?

Have you nor hands, nor feet,

Have you nor wife, nor son?

If greater reward be meet,

What have you said or done,

To merit a further grace?

O you have kept from sin!--

Kept from the tight embrace

Of the devil's snare and gin.

Your deeds had a righteous shape,

Yet they were not done well;

You did them but to escape

From the pangs and the pains of Hell,

And were ready to leave a wife,

Or a son, or a friend behind,

And enter eternal life

To your own fair soul assigned.

Not Love, not Love was the root

And the source of your noble deeds:

Love has its own sweet fruit,

Never reward it needs.

Love could never agree

To the creed you hold as true--

A hell for such as me,

A heaven for such as you.

The hell only I wot

Is such a creed to hold,

And such hell is not hot,

But narrow, and mean, and cold.

Reward! You have life, and limb,

You have heart, and brain, and breath,

And soon when your eyes grow dim

You will have the repose of death.

Best let rewards alone,

Sir Benjamin Pharisee,

And pray that mercy be shown

To sinners like you and me.