Soldier poets, songs of the fighting men/H. Spurrier
Private, Royal Warwicks
Wounded at La Bassée
The Charge at Neuve-Chapelle
THE charge we made at Neuve-Chapelle
When Fate the die had cast
Was like the lightning of the clouds
As bursts the thunder-blast.
Not least among the records red
For that disastrous year,
Of trenches won and lost again,
Its annals shall appear.
Great battles have been waged and won
Of more momentous power,
When Earth within the balance swung
In sanguinary hour.
But redder morn did never rise
Than on that doubtful day,
Through Death and wire-entanglement
We wrought resistless way.
Along our line the rumour ran
And leaped from lip to lip,
Till that terrific call of blood
Had got us all in grip.
To raise a cheer we didn't dare
Although our blood was fire,
But waited for the signal word
That would not be "retire."
At last it came like liquid flame
And flooded down the trench.
"'C' Company, advance and charge!"
We gave our limbs a wrench,
And leaped upon the parapet
And flung a flaunting shout,
As though the fatal Fiends of War
Were boisterous and about.
Some furlongs four we had to run
And Hell did intervene;
A Death that rode invisible,
An Agony unseen.
At every step a comrade fell,
Nor face of foe we saw.
Fell young Lieutenant Anderson
And gallant Captain Shaw.
Yet on we rushed and never paused,
For death was in delay,
Yet nearer, nearer to our goal,
The debt of blood to pay,
Our bayonets glinting in the sun,
Our faces fierce and white,
With sobbing breath and staring eye,
Yet bright with battle-light.
Then shouted Sergeant-Major Jones—
"On, lads, and follow me!"
We gave a hoarse and broken cheer
And swept to VICTORY.
Right through that belch of roaring death,
Amidst the fiery drench,
Hacked through their wire-entanglement,
And leaped and took the trench.
THE dews that descend with the dawning;
The stars that are smitten by light,
At Phoebus' feet fainting and fawning;
The flowers that unfold in delight;
The lark who a lyric is trilling
O'er woodland and hollow and hill;
The streams who their fountains are filling,
No peace can instil.
No peace for the love that must languish;
No hope for the heart that is dead;
No salve for the soul in her anguish,
To memories immortally wed.
The passion and pulse of to-morrow
Will waken a thousand to joy,
A thousand to labour and sorrow,
But not, not my boy.
Methought in the night that his prattle
Came sweet from the tombs of dead time,
'Ere flashed on my vision the battle,
The ruin, the horror, the crime.
His eyes they were wistful with wonder,
His cheeks they were rosy to kiss,
His lips they were parted asunder,
And his smile was bliss.
And then the blind hell that envelops
Two armed and unpitying hates,
When Death to the banquet-hall gallops,
And man is the mock of the Fates.
I saw him Oh, God! can I utter
What burned through mine eyelids like fire?—
Dead, dead like a dog in a gutter,
Bleeding in mire.
His eyes they were opened to Heaven,
His curls they were clotted with mud,
His limbs they were ravaged and riven,
His lips had a frothing of blood.
Yet clear to my soul spake his spirit,
As scorning the fetters of Fate,
As one whom the might and the merit
Of living crowned late.
Weep not for thy children, O mother.
Wail not for thy husband, O wife.
Let brother not mourn for a brother
Who fell in the foam of the strife.
For Pain we had looked long upon her,
And danger and Death were as wine;
And glory is ours, we have won her,
O mother of mine.