The Muse in Arms/In Memoriam

In Memoriam


The Last Salute

H. S. G., Ypres, 1916

IN a far field, away from England, lies
A boy I friended with a care like love;
All day the wide earth aches, the keen wind cries,
The melancholy clouds drive on above.

There, separate from him by a little span
Two eagle cousins, generous, reckless, free,
Two Grenfells, lie, and my boy is made man,
One with these elder knights of chivalry.

Boy, who expected not this dreadful day,
Yet leaped, a soldier, at the sudden call,
Drank as your fathers, deeper though than they,
The soldier's cup of anguish, blood, and gall.

Not now as friend, but as a soldier, I
Salute you fallen. For the soldier's name
Our greatest honour is, if worthily
These wayward hearts assume and bear the same: ·····

The Soldier's is a name none recognise
Saving his fellows. Deeds are all his flower.
He lives, he toils, he suffers, and he dies,
And if not vainly spent, this is his dower.

The Soldier is the Martyr of a nation,
Expresses but is subject to its will,
His is the Pride ennobles Resignation
As his the rebel Spirit-to-fulfil.

Anonymous, he takes his country's name,
Becomes its blindest vassal—though its lord
By force of arms—its shame is called his shame,
As its the glory gathered by his sword.

Lonely he is: he has nor friend nor lover,
Sith in his body he is dedicate....
His comrades only share his life and offer
Their further deeds to one more heart oblate.

Living, he's made an "Argument Beyond"
For others' peace; but when hot wars have birth,
For all his brothers' safety he is bond
To Fate or Whatsoever sways this Earth.

Dying, his mangled body, to inter it,
He doth bequeath him into comrade hands,
His soul he renders to some Captain Spirit
That knows, admires, pities, and understands!·····

All this you knew by that which doth reside
Deeper than learning; by apprehension
Of ancient, dark, and melancholy pride;
You were a Soldier true and died as one!...

All day the long wind cries, the clouds unroll,
But to the cloud and wind I cry, "Be still!"
What need of comfort has the heroic soul?
What soldier finds a soldier's grave is chill?


A Dirge

THOU art no longer here,
No longer shall we see thy face,
But, in that other place,
Where may be heard
The roar of the world rushing down the wantways of the stars;
And the silver bars
Of heaven's gate
Shine soft and clear:
Thou mayest wait.

No longer shall we see
Thee walking in the crowded streets,
But where the ocean of the Future beats
Against the flood-gates of the Present, swirling to this earth,
Another birth
Thou mayest have;
Another Arcady
May thee receive.
Not here thou dost remain,
Thou art gone far away,
Where, at the portals of the day,
The hours ever dance in ring, a silvern-footed throng,

While Time looks on,
And seraphs stand
Choiring an endless strain
On either hand.

Thou canst return no more;
Not as the happy time of spring
Comes after winter burgeoning
On wood and wold in folds of living green, for thou art dead.
Our tears we shed
In vain, for thou
Dost pace another shore,
Untroubled now.


R. B.

IT was April we left Lemnos, shining sea and snow-white camp,
Passing onward into darkness. Lemnos shone a golden lamp,
As a low harp tells of thunder, so the lovely Lemnos air
Whispered of the dawn and battle; and we left a comrade there.

He who sang of dawn and evening, English glades and light of Greece,
Changed his dreaming into sleeping, left his sword to rest in peace.
Left his visions of the springtime, Holy Grail and Golden Fleece,
Took the leave that has no ending, till the waves of Lemnos cease.

There will be enough recorders ere this fight of ours be done,
And the deeds of men made little, swiftly cheapened one by one;
Bitter loss his golden harpstrings and the treasure of his youth;
Gallant foe and friend may mourn him, for he sang the knightly truth.

Joy was his in his clear singing, clean as is the swimmer's joy;
Strong the wine he drank of battle, fierce as that they poured in Troy.
Swift the shadows steal from Athos, but his soul was morning-swift,
Greek and English he made music, caught the cloud-thoughts we let drift.

Sleep you well, you rainbow comrade, where the wind and light is strong,
Overhead and high above you, let the lark take up your song.
Something of your singing lingers, for the men like me who pass,
Till all singing ends in sighing, in the sighing of the grass.


To Certain Comrades

(E. S. and J. H.)

LIVING we loved you, yet withheld our praises
Before your faces.

And though our spirits had you high in honour!
After the English manner,

We said no word. Yet as such comrades would,
You understood.

Such friendship is not touched by death's disaster,
But stands the faster.

And all the shocks and trials of time cannot
Shake it one jot.

Beside the fire at night some far December
We shall remember

And tell men unbegotten as yet the story
Of your sad glory.

Of your plain strength, your truth of heart, your splendid
Coolness—all ended....

All ended! Yet the aching hearts of lovers
Joy over-covers;

Glad in their sorrow, hoping that if they must
Come to the dust,

An ending such as yours may be their portion
And great good fortune.

That if we may not live to serve in peace
England—watching increase—

Then death with you, honoured and swift and high,
And so—Not Die.


Ode to a Young Man

Who Died of Wounds in Flanders, January 1915


CAN it be true that thou art dead
In the hour of thy youth, in the day of thy strength?
Must I believe thy soul has fled
Through heaven's length?

A scholar wast thou, learn'd in lore;
Poet was written in thine eyes.
Thou ne'er wast meant for bloody war
To seize in prize.

Yet when they asked thee, "Lo! what dost thou bring?"
Thou gav'st thyself,
Thou gav'st thy body, gav'st thy soul;
Thou gav'st thyself, one consecrated whole
To sacrificial torture for thy King.

O lovely youth, slaughtered at manhood's dawn,
In virgin purity thou liest dead,
And slaughtered were thy sons unborn,
With thee unwed.

Sleep on, pure youth, sleep at Earth's soothing breast,
No king's sarcophagus was e'er so fine
As that poor shallow soldier's grave of thine,
Where all ungarlanded thou tak'st thy rest.


Goliath and David

For D. C. T., killed at Fricourt, March 1916

ONCE an earlier David took
Smooth pebbles from the brook:
Out between the lines he went
To that one-sided tournament,
A shepherd boy who stood out fine
And young to fight a Philistine
Clad all in brazen mail. He swears
That he's killed lions, he's killed bears,
And those that scorn the God of Zion
Shall perish so like bear or lion.
But the historian of that fight
Had not the heart to tell it right.
Striding within javelin range
Goliath marvels at this strange
Goodly-faced boy so proud of strength.
David's clear eye measures the length;
With hand thrust back, he cramps one knee,
Poises a moment thoughtfully,
And hurls with a long vengeful swing.
The pebble, humming from the sling
Like a wild bee, flies a sure line
For the forehead of the Philistine,
Then ... but there comes a brazen clink,
And quicker than a man can think
Goliath's shield parries each cast,
Clang! clang! and clang! was David's last.
Scorn blazes in the Giant's eye
Towering unhurt six cubits high.
Says foolish David, "Damn your shield,
And damn my sling, but I'll not yield."
He takes his staff of Mamre oak,
A knotted shepherd-staff that's broke
The skull of many a wolf and fox
Come filching lambs from Jesse's flocks.
Loud laughs Goliath, and that laugh
Can scatter chariots like blown chaff
To rout: but David, calm and brave,
Holds his ground, for God will save.
Steel crosses wood, a flash, and oh!
Shame for Beauty's overthrow!
(God's eyes are dim, His ears are shut.)
One cruel backhand sabre cut—
"I'm hit, I'm killed," young David cries,
Throws blindly forward, chokes ... and dies.
And look, spike-helmeted, grey, grim,
Goliath straddles over him.


To R—— at Anzac

YOU left your vineyards, dreaming of the vines in a dream land
And dim Italian cities where high cathedrals stand.
At Anzac in the evening, so many things we planned,
And now you sleep with comrades in the Anafarta sand.

There are men go gay to battle like the cavaliers to dance,
And some with happy dreamings like princes in romance,
And some men march unquestioning to where the answer lies,
The dawn that comes like darkness they meet with lover's eyes.

You heard the bugles call to arms, and like a storm men's cheers,
But veiled behind that music, you knew the women's tears.
You heard the Vikings singing in a rapture to the sea,
And passing clear beyond that song, the waves of Galilee.

You lived for peace and lived for war, you knew no little strife;
To conquer first, then help your foe, made music of your life.
And for the sake of those you led, you gave your life away,
As youth might fling a coin of gold upon a sunny day.

If Odin mustered Vikings, you would rule his pagan crew.
If Mary came to choose her knights, she'd hand her sword to you.
Men scattered in the wilderness, or crowded in the street,
Would choose you for their leader and glory in defeat.

You'd find a bridge to Lazarus, or any man in pain.
There are not many like you that I shall see again;
I do not grieve for you who laughed, and went into the shade,
I sorrow for the dream that's lost, Italian plans we made.

Good-bye! It's Armageddon. You will not prune your vine,
Nor taste the salt of channel winds, nor hear the singing Rhine.
You'll sleep with friends and enemies until the trumpet sounds,
And open are the thrones of kings, and all the Trojan mounds.

When women's tears arc rainbows then, that shine across the sky,
And swords are raised in last salute, to a comrade enemy,
And what men fought and failed for, or what men strove and won,
Are like forgotten shadows, and clouds that hid the sun.


To John[1]

O HEART-AND-SOUL and careless played
Our little band of brothers,
And never recked the time would come
To change our games for others.
It's joy for those who played with you
To picture now what grace
Was in your mind and single heart
And in your radiant face.
Your light-foot strength by flood and field
For England keener glowed;
To whatsoever things are fair
We know, through you, the road;
Nor is our grief the less thereby;
O swift and strong and dear, good-bye.


To C. A. L.[2]

TO have laughed and talked—wise, witty, fantastic, feckless—
To have mocked at rules and rulers and learnt to obey,
To have led your men with a daring adored and reckless,
To have struck your blow for Freedom, the old straight way:

To have hated the world and lived among those who love it,
To have thought great thoughts and lived till you knew them true,
To have loved men more than yourself and have died to prove it—
Yes, Charles, this is to have lived: was there more to do?

  1. The Hon. John Manners.
  2. The Hon. Charles Lister.