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More songs by the fighting men. Soldiers poets: second series/Leslie Coulson

LESLIE COULSON

Sergt., London Regiment, R.F.

(Died of Wounds in France, October, 1916)

 

"—But a Short Time to Live"

OUR little hour,—how swift it flies
When poppies flare and lilies smile;
How soon the fleeting minute dies,
Leaving us but a little while
To dream our dream, to sing our song,
To pick the fruit, to pluck the flower,
The Gods—They do not give us long,—
One little hour.


One little hour,—how short it is
When Love with dew-eyed loveliness
Raises her lips for ours to kiss
And dies within our first caress.
Youth flickers out like wind-blown flame,
Sweets of to-day to-morrow sour,
For Time and Death relentless claim
Our little hour.


Our little hour,—how short a time
To wage our wars, to fan our hates,
To take our fill of armoured crime,
To troop our banners, storm the gates.
Blood on the sword, our eyes blood-red,
Blind in our puny reign of power,
Do we forget how soon is sped
Our little hour?


Our little hour,—how soon it dies:
How short a time to tell our beads,
To chant our feeble Litanies,
To think sweet thoughts, to do good deeds.
The altar lights grow pale and dim,
The bells hang silent in the tower—
So passes with the dying hymn
Our little hour.

 

From the Somme

IN other days I sang of simple things,
Of summer dawn, and summer noon and night,
The dewy grass, the dew-wet fairy rings,
The lark's long golden flight.


Deep in the forest I made melody
While squirrels cracked their hazel nuts on high,
Or I would cross the wet sand to the sea
And sing to sea and sky.


When came the silvered silence of the night
I stole to casements over scented lawns,
And softly sang of love and love's delight
To mute white marble fauns.


Oft in the tavern parlour I would sing
Of morning sun upon the mountain vine,
And, calling for a chorus, sweep the string
In praise of good red wine.


I played with all the toys the gods provide,
I sang my songs and made glad holiday.
Now I have cast my broken toys aside
And flung my lute away.


A singer once, I now am fain to weep.
Within my soul I feel strange music swell,
Vast chants of tragedy too deep—too deep
For my poor lips to tell.

 

The Secret

WHAT is the secret—the secret
That lies at the heart of it all—
The surge of the stars, the cry of the wind,
And the beat of the sea,
And the surge, and the cry, and the beat of the soul in me?