The Great War

from War, The Liberator and Other Pieces, an electronic edition

Three Battles

To the 51st Division

HIGH WOOD, July-August 1916

OH gay were we in spirit

In the hours of the night

When we lay in rest by Albert

And waited for the fight;

Gay and gallant were we

On the day that we set forth.

But broken, broken, broken

Is the valour of the North.

The wild warpipes were calling,

Our hearts were blithe and free

When we went up the valley

To the death we could not see.

Clear lay the wood before us

In the clear summer weather,

But broken, broken, broken

Are the sons of the heather.

In the cold of the morning,

In the burning of the day,

The thin lines stumbled forward,

The dead and dying lay.

By the unseen death that caught us

By the bullets' raging hail

Broken, broken, broken

Is the pride of the Gael.

BEAUMONT-HAMEL, November 16th, 1916

BUT the North shall arise

Yet again in its strength;

Blood calling for blood

Shall be feasted at length.

For the dead men that lie

Underneath the hard skies,

For battle, for vengeance

The North shall arise.

In the cold of the morning

A grey mist was drawn

Over the waves

That went up in the dawn,

Went up like the waves

Of the wild Northern sea;

For the North has arisen.

The North has broke free.

Ghosts of the heroes

That died in the wood.

Looked on the killing

And saw it was good.

Far over the hillsides

They saw in their dream

The kilted men charging,

The bayonets gleam.

By the cries we had heard,

By the things we had seen,

By the vengeance we took

In the bloody ravine,

By the men that we slew

In the mud and the rain,

The pride of the North

Has arisen again.

Victory and Failure

Arras, April 9th
ROEUX, April 23rd, 1917

NOT for the day of victory

I mourn I was not there,

The hard fierce rush of slaying men,

The hands up in the air,

But for the torn ranks struggling on

The old brave hopeless way,

The broken charge, the slow retreat.

And I so far away.

And listening to the tale of Roeux

I think I see again

The steady grim despairing ranks,

The courage and the pain,

The bodies of my friends that lie

Unburied in the dew--

Oh! friends of mine, and I not there

To die along with you.