Patriotic pieces from the Great War/Rheims
It was a people's church—stout, plain folk they,
Wanting their own cathedral, not the king's,
Nor prelate's, nor great noble's. On the walls,
On porch and arch and doorway—see—the saints
Have the plain people's faces. That sweet Virgin
Was young Marie, who lived around the corner,
And whom the sculptor knew. From time to time
He saw her at her work or with her babe,
So gay, so dainty, smiling at the child.
That sturdy Peter—Peter of the keys—
He was old Jean, the Breton fisherman,
Who, somehow, made his way here from the coast
And lived here many years, yet kept withal
The look of the great sea and his great nets.
And John there, the beloved, was Etienne,
And good Saint James was François—brothers they,
And had a small, clean bakeshop, where they sold
Bread, cakes, and little pies. Well, so it went!
These were not Italy's saints, nor yet the gods,
Majestic, calm, unmoved, of ancient Greece.
No, they were only townsfolk, common people,
And graced a common church—that stood and stood
Through war and fire and pestilence, through ravage
Of time and kings and conquerors, till at last
The century dawned which promised common men
The things they long had hoped for!
O the time
Showed a fair face, was daughter of great Demos,
Flamboyant, bore a light, laughed loud and free,
And feared not any man—until—until—
There sprang a mailed figure from a throne,
Gorgeous, imperial, glowing—a monstrosity
Magnificent as death and as death terrible.
It walked these aisles and saw the humble ones,
Peter, the fisherman, James and John the shopkeepers,
And Mary, sweet, gay, innocent and poor.
Loud did it laugh and long. "These peaceful folk!
What place have they in my great armed world?"
Then with its thunderbolts of fire it drove
These saints from out their places—breaking roof,
Wall, window, portal—and the great grave arch
Smoked with the awful funeral smoke of doom.
Thus died they and their church—but from the wreck
Of fire and smoke and broken wood and stone
There rose a figure greater far than they—
Their Lord who dwells within no house of hands;
Whose beauty hath no need of any form!
Out from the fire he passed, and round him went
Marie and Jean, and Etienne and François,
And they went singing, singing, through their France—
And Italy—and England—and the world!