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The Christian Soldier


LXVII

The Cross of Wood

GOD be with you and us who go our way
And leave you dead upon the ground you won.
For you at last the long fatigue is done,
The hard march ended; you have rest to-day.


You were our friends; with you we watched the dawn
Gleam through the rain of the long winter night,
With you we laboured till the morning light
Broke on the village, shell-destroyed and torn.


Not now for you the glorious return
To steep Stroud valleys, to the Severn leas
By Tewkesbury and Gloucester, or the trees
Of Cheltenham under high Cotswold stern.


For you no medals such as others wear—
A cross of bronze for those approvèd brave—
To you is given, above a shallow grave,
The Wooden Cross that marks you resting there.


Rest you content; more honourable far
Than all the Orders is the Cross of Wood,
The symbol of self-sacrifice that stood
Bearing the God whose brethren you are.


LXVIII

What is War?

WHAT is war?
Ask the young men who fight,
Men who defend the right,
Ask them—what is war?
"Honour—or death—that is war,"
Say the young men.


What is war?
Ask of the women who weep,
Mourning for those who sleep,
Ask them—what is war?
"Sorrow and grief—that is war,"
Say the women.


What is war?
By ways beyond our ken,
God tries the souls of men,
Sends retribution just,
Punishing vice and lust,
God's wrath for sin—that is war.

Weilburg A. D. Lahn,
February 11th, 1916.


LXIX

How long, O Lord?

HOW long, O Lord, how long, before the flood
Of crimson-welling carnage shall abate?
From sodden plains in West and East, the blood
Of kindly men steams up in mists of hate,
Polluting Thy clean air; and nations great
In reputation of the arts that bind
The world with hopes of heaven, sink to the state
Of brute barbarians, whose ferocious mind
Gloats o'er the bloody havoc of their kind,
Not knowing love or mercy. Lord, how long
Shall Satan in high places lead the blind
To battle for the passions of the strong?
Oh, touch Thy children's hearts, that they may know
Hate their most hateful, pride their deadliest foe.


LXX

Release

THERE is a healing magic in the night,
The breeze blows cleaner than it did by day,
Forgot the fever of the fuller light,
And sorrow sinks insensibly away
As if some saint a cool white hand did lay
Upon the brow, and calm the restless brain.
The moon looks down with pale impassioned ray—
Sufficient for the hour is its pain.
Be still and feel the night that hides away earth's stain.
Be still and loose the sense of God in you,
Be still and send your soul into the all,
The vasty distance where the stars shine blue,
No longer antlike on the earth to crawl.
Released from time and sense of great or small,
Float on the pinions of the Night-Queen's wings;
Soar till the swift inevitable fall
Will drag you back into all the world's small things;
Yet for an hour be one with all escapèd things.


LXXI

In the Lower Garden

The Rose

WHY do you leave me always here?
For me no usefulness is found;
I have no beauty anywhere;
Will you not tear me from the ground?


The Gardener

Watch ye the lilies how they grow,
They neither toil nor make complaint.
Look at their gentleness, and know
They are a strength to stay the faint.


The Rose

I do not see the lilies, Lord,
And I am weary of this waste.


The Gardener

Watch ye the grass upon the sward;
The lily never grows in haste.


The Rose

Yea, in the grass I see a stalk;
The bending leaves to left and right
Fashion a cross beside the walk.
Tell me the meaning of this sight.


The Gardener

The lily makes a cross because
I planted it to give a sign
That what the Word of God once was
Shall ever be the truth benign.


The Rose

See on the stem it bows its head
Stooping to open unto earth.


The Gardener

So on the cross the Saviour dead
Opened to man a second birth.


The Rose

Oh what a lovely yellow bloom,
Crown of the richest golden hue!
Light from the Garden's open Tomb,
Give me a golden flower too!


The Gardener

Know ye the spirit of your kind?
It is not Mine to make it so;
Colour and form are of the mind;
Ponder the lilies, how they blow!


The Rose

Now do I feel a bud of life
Springing from out my slender trail.


The Gardener

Soon you will bear the fruit of strife
That draws to earth the Holy Grail.


The Rose

Grant me the fulness of Thy grace,
An open heart, that ever knows
Wisdom and strength Thy love to trace,
Blossoming forth a full-blown rose.


The Gardener

Ponder the lilies! Pomp and pride,
Wisdom and honour, wealth and dress,
Solomon's glory never vied
With all the splendour they possess!


The Rose

Give me just wisdom, peace of mind,
To be the Watchman of my Tower.


The Gardener

There is no wisdom more to find
If you but know this golden flower!


The Rose

While the pure form I contemplate,
And note the humble drooping pose,
A stirring quickens my estate;
The bud becomes a full-blown rose.


The Gardener

Thou must let fall thy petals too,
And thou shalt be both pure and great;
Thy ruddy splendour, royal hue,
Betokens Life Illuminate!


The Rose

O Thou to whom all hearts are pure,
Thy prescience telleth my desire!


The Gardener

The lily tells you to endure
And pray the Spirit to inspire.


The Rose

This have I done, Lord, from the first,
But this is finite, where we dwell,
For Living Water, Lord, I thirst;
Thou art the Water and the Well!


The Gardener

There is a life beyond the grave;
Leave all, unite with Me, and rise
Upwards, and bless the One who gave
The lily power to make men wise!

March 1916.


LXXII

A Christmas Prayer

From the Trenches

NOT yet for us may Christmas bring
Good-will to men, and peace;
In our dark sky no angels sing,
Not yet the great release
For men, when war shall cease.


So must the guns our carols make,
Our gifts must bullets be,
For us no Christmas bells shall wake;
These ruined homes shall see
No Christmas revelry.


In hardened hearts we fain would greet
The Babe at Christmas born,
But lo, He comes with piercèd feet,
Wearing a crown of thorn,—
His side a spear has torn.


For tired eyes are all too dim,
Our hearts too full of pain,
Our ears too deaf to hear the hymn
Which angels sing in vain,
"The Christ is born again."


O Jesus, pitiful, draw near,
That even we may see
The Little Child who knew not fear;
Thus would we picture Thee
Unmarred by agony.


O'er death and pain triumphant yet
Bid Thou Thy harpers play,
That we may hear them, and forget
Sorrow and all dismay,
And welcome Thee to stay
With us on Christmas Day.


LXXIII

Holy Communion Service, Suvla Bay

BEHOLD a table spread!
A battered corned-beef box, a length of twine,
An altar-rail of twigs and shreds of string.
. . . For the unseen, divine,
Uncomprehended Thing
A hallowed space amid the holy dead.


Behold a table spread!
And on a fair, white cloth the bread and wine,
The symbols of sublime compassioning,
The very outward sign
Of that the nations sing,
The body that He gave, the blood He shed.


Behold a table spread!
And kneeling soldiers in God's battle-line,
A line of homage to a mightier King:
All-knowing All-benign!
Hearing the prayers they bring,
Grant to them strength to follow where He led.


  1. Found in his note-book when his kit came home.