More songs by the fighting men. Soldiers poets: second series/Geoffrey H. Crump
GEOFFREY H. CRUMP
Major, Essex Regiment
I WENT alone into the fields to-night,
And stood upon the hillside, where the oaks
Have stood and talked of God in the twilight
For centuries, and cracked their ancient jokes
Over our heads; those veterans know more
Of God than we have learned with all our lore.
I pressed my cheek against an oak's rough bark,
And watched the sun drop down behind the hill;
Silence fell on the valley; the last lark
Was hushed; and suddenly the wind was still . . .
A breath of air went rustling through the trees,
And God passed by me in the sunset breeze.
A clock chimed in the valley down below;
Some children shouted; and the blue smoke curled
Out of the cottage chimneys—'twas as though
There could be nothing ugly in the world;
The lights gleamed from the houses in the wood;
And God smiled, for He saw that it was good.
Then, as I laid my head upon the ground,
And waited there for dark night's close embrace,
I heard, far off, a murmuring, rumbling sound,
As if the earth groaned at her own disgrace;
It trembled on the breeze, swelled, and then died;
Again the branches rustled, and God sighed.
LIKE a vast forest on some distant plain,
Out in the west, dark, rounded clouds lay low
Upon the sea: o'er them, the sun's broad train—
The glories of the golden afterglow.
Gold, and then crimson: changing, through degrees
Of red and green, to fields of turquoise blue:
Then darker blue, that challenges the seas
To deeper darkness, as the storm-clouds do.
Then, when the stars gleamed faintly, blushing red
At their own eagerness: and as this feast
Of beauty seemed complete, and day was dead,
I turned my face, and looked toward the east.
There I saw that which made me hold my breath;
I'd thought the sunset fair: now met my sight,
In perfect contrast—like the peace of death
After life's glare—the grandeur of the night.
In empty sky, still tinged with wondrous blue,
The full moon hung, displaying royally
Her cold and naked beauty, as she threw
Her path of silver moonbeams on the sea.
God showed me then, that, if we learn to love
The beauties that He sends us in our day,
More lovely yet will night celestial prove—
The perfect calm of passions passed away.
Indian Ocean, November, 1916.
Off St. Helena
WHEN I sit silent on the swaying deck,
And drink in the soft splendour of the night,
The pale, proud moon; the sky, all cloud a-fleck;
The silver balls of phosphorescent light
In the white foam; the davits curving black
Against the sky; the tall and stately mast,
Swinging from star to star—though these all lack
Nothing of beauty, perfect, pure, and vast,
'Tis naught to me: save that I may devise
That I do look again into your eyes.
TEAR-DIMMED eyes my loved one lifted,
When she said good-bye to me;
Sweet, grey eyes, where colours shifted
Like the shadows on the sea:
O'er the cliffs of Devon, keeping
Guard, like eyes, o'er Devon's mouth,
Sad, grey mists came stilly creeping,
Sorrow-laden, from the South.
Through the weary weight of sadness,
And the numbness of despair,
Came a thought that turned to gladness
Even the pain I could not bear:
Those proud cliffs were calling clearly,
As Drake heard them in his day:—
"England knows you love her dearly,
Weeps to send you far away."
'Neath this brazen, blazing heaven,
In a wilderness of sand,
Daily England's lives are given
For her newest, oldest land;
Does there come a dream, consoling
Those who die on foreign ground,
Of the sea-mists, slowly rolling
Homewards over Plymouth Sound?
Should I die, I'll see them drifting
Through the mirage, ere I go;
Maybe, if the mists are lifting,
I'll see sunshine on the Hoe!
Should I live, when this is over,
And we've done what is to do,
England, smile to greet your lover,
When he hurries home to you!
Basra, December, 1916.