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More songs by the fighting men. Soldiers poets: second series/Charles John Beech Masefield, M.C.

< More songs by the fighting men. Soldiers poets: second series(Redirected from Enlisted, or The Recruits)


M.C., Acting Capt., 5th North Staffs Regt.

(Killed in Action, July, 1917)


Enlisted, or The Recruits

HUMBLY, O England, we offer what is of little worth,
Just our bodies and souls and everything else we have;
But thou with thy holy cause wilt hallow our common earth,
Giving us strength in the battle—and peace, if need, in the grave.

Humble, O England, we are, for of hero-fathers we come,
Men that contested with tyrants the mightier destinies;
Philip of Spain we remember, and the ships that never went home,
And him that was caught at last, and isled in the warder seas.

Humbly, O England, we bring thee life in its folly-stained youth,
That which, it may be, has striven, but ever has slackened and tired;
The faltering, often deceived, to combat now for the Truth,
Dim-visioned, to smite for the morrow unknown but desired.

September, 1914.


Sailing for Flanders

TO need any more the skies or man to importune
For us departing to-day with spirits at peace,
Now that the inner warfares, that tire men, cease—
For us the chosen of God's lot, the spoilt darlings of Fortune.

Against the beasts in men let loose from their cages
We go forth with a lightened and proud heart,
We who are the men summoned to a high part,
To be known of the envious youth of unborn ages.

We have feared old Death, but now have we learned our error,
Seeing him there in the mire us so kindly await—
A comrade befitting the hour of a world's fate,
And we look him full in the eyes; we are rid of our last terror.

True that Death is an ill, but the worse ills are many;
Shame and slow rotting, cold and greasy years,
Pride in dishonour—these things hold our fears;
We can play pitch and toss with our lives as a boy with a penny.

We have spent ourselves to win us a lady's favour,
But now the spending is grown to a leaping fire,
And winning for ourselves seems but a strange desire;
Her eyes are remote as stars; her kisses have lost their savour.

We have put life away and spurn the ways of the living;
We have broken with the old selves who gathered and got,
And are free with the freedom of men who have not;
We partake the heroic fervours of giving and again giving.

Was it only for Death we were borne of our Mothers?
Only for Death created the dear love of our wives?
Only for Death and in vain we endeavoured our lives?
Yea, life was given to be given; March onward, my brothers!

January, 1915.


Two Julys

I WAS so vague in 1914; tossed
Upon too many purposes, and worthless;
Moody; to this world or the other lost,
Essential nowhere; without calm and mirthless
And now I have gained one for many ends,
See my straight road stretch out so white, so slender,
That happy road, the road of all my friends,
Made glad with peace, and holy with surrender.

Proud, proud we fling to the winds of Time our token,
And in our need there wells in us the power,
Given England's swords to keep her honour clean.
Which they shall be which pierce, and which be broken,
We know not, but we know that every hour
We must shine brighter, take an edge more keen.

July, 1915.


In Honorem Fortium

I SOMETIMES think that I have lived too long,
Who have heard so many a gay brave singer's song
Fail him for ever—seen so many sails
Lean out resplendent to the evil gales,
Then Death, the wrecker, get his harvest in.
Oh, ill it is, when men lose all, to win;
Grief though it be to die, 'tis grief yet more
To live and count the dear dead comrades o'er.


Peace. After all you died not. We've no fear
But that, long ages hence, you will be near—
A thought by night—on the warm wind a breath,
Making for courage, putting old Death,
Living wherever men are not afraid
Of aught but making bravery a parade.
Yes, parleying with fear, they'll pause and say,
"At Gommecourt boys suffered worse that day";
Or, hesitating on some anxious brink,
They will become heroic when they think,
"Did they not rise mortality above
Who staked a lifetime all made sweet with love?"

May, 1917.