The Great War

from The Man Who Saw, an electronic edition

Crossing the Rubicon

WHO draws to-day a traitor's sword ?

Behold him stand, the Man Forsworn,

Him of the shameless, faithless word,

The pledge disowned, the covenant torn,

Who prates of honour, truth and trust,

While he befouls them in the dust.

When, to yon towers of hoary fame

That Windsor lifts against the sky,

In martial cloak the Kaiser came,

We did not dream it cloaked a spy ;

Yet there he sat, as now we know,

That basest thing, a guest and foe.

France was a gallant foe and fair,

That looked her enemies in the face,

With her proud eyes and freeborn air,

And valour half-concealed in grace.

Noblest of all with whom we strove,

At last she gives us noble love.

But he that took our proffered hand,

Plotting to take our birthright too,

He, in this hospitable land,

Bore him as only dastards do.

Here, where the Earth still nurtures men,

His hand shall soil not ours again.

Let us a League of Man proclaim,

Against such knavery 'neath a crown

As rightly would be held to shame

A swineherd and his fellow clown.

Shall all the loathsome creeping things

Find a last refuge among Kings ?

O you that wed your sword with ours

To break his pride who mocks at laws,

You wear, 'mid yonder perjured Powers,

The armour of a spotless cause.

Forward, in knightliest faith arrayed,

And Truth herself shall whet your blade.

From fields of peace, from citied shores,

Where Neva to the Baltic runs,

Where Volga to the Caspian pours,

You have not poured in vain your sons.

From lands of Loire and Rhône and Seine

You have not poured your sons in vain.

Nor idly here, in this rough North,

Hath she whose bosom is our home

Sounded her mandate speeding forth

Our steps of thunder on the foam.

There, till the Thrones of Falsehood fall,

She guards the deeps that guard our all.

There sitting by her old sea gate,

Slow to be roused, slow to take fire,

And slow, being kindled, to abate

The blast and volley of her ire,--

With grey brows catching from afar

The red flare of the torch of war,--

Reluctant to the last, she throws

Her doubts behind, bids dreams depart,

Shakes off the rust that in repose

Had gathered round her iron heart,

In proud sad calm her anger clothes,

And leaps to embrace the fate she loathes.