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The Future Hope


LVI

Gifts of the Dead

BLOW out, you bugles, over the rich dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.


Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.


LVII

War's Cataract

IN this red havoc of the patient earth,
Though higher yet the tide of battle rise,
Now has the hero cast away disguise,
And out of ruin splendour comes to birth.
This is the field where Death and Honour meet,
And all the lesser company are low:
Pale Loveliness has left her mirror now
And walks the Court of Pain with silent feet.


From cliff to cliff war's cataract goes down,
Hurling its booming waters to the shock;
And, tossing high their manes of gleaming spray,
The crested chargers leap from rock to rock,
While over all, dark though the thunder frown,
The rainbows climb above to meet the day.


LVIII

Reincarnation

I TOO remember distant golden days
When even my soul was young; I see the sand
Whirl in a blinding pillar towards the band
Of orange sky-line 'neath a turquoise blaze
(Some burnt-out sky spread o'er a glistening land)
—And slim brown jargoning men in blue and gold,
I know it all so well, I understand
The ecstasy of worship ages-old.


Hear the first truth: The great far-seeing soul
Is ever in the humblest husk; I see
How each succeeding section takes its toll
In fading cycles of old memory.
And each new life the next life shall control
Until perfection reach eternity.

Ramparts, Ypres,
July 1916.


LIX

The Dead, 1915

YE that have hewn from death's dark stubborn stone
Immortal frescoes lovelier than light,
And given to sacrifice a rosier might
Than all unstable Autumn's wealth unstrown,
And unto Life such terrible renown,
And unto Love a loss so sweet and white
That purer than the stars he stands to-night
Smiling serene, unspeakably alone—


If aught of earth can reach immortal ears,
May truth's white bird of rumour, mounting high,
Bring you the secret of our hidden tears
And the proud falsehood of the tearless eye;
Till in the heavy wrappage of the years
Death's self be hid and sad truth seem a lie.


LX

Two Sonnets

I

SAINTS have adored the lofty soul of you.
Poets have whitened at your high renown.
We stand among the many millions who
Do hourly wait to pass your pathway down.
You, so familiar, once were strange: we tried
To live as of your presence unaware.
But now in every road on every side
We see your straight and steadfast signpost there.


I think it like that signpost in my land
Hoary and tall, which pointed me to go
Upward, into the hills, on the right hand,
Where the mists swim and the winds shriek and blow,
A homeless land and friendless, but a land
I did not know and that I wished to know.


II

Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been,
And this we know: Death is not Life effete,
Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen
So marvellous things know well the end's not yet.


Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:
Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,
"Come, what was your record when you drew breath?"
But a big blot has hid each yesterday
So poor, so manifestly incomplete.
And your bright promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.


LXI

To Germany

YOU are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But, gropers both through fields of thought confined,
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other's dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.


When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other's truer form,
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm,
We'll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But, until peace, the storm,
The darkness, and the thunder and the rain.


LXII

If we return

IF we return, will England be
Just England still to you and me?
The place where we must earn our bread?
We who have walked among the dead,
And watched the smile of agony,
And seen the price of Liberty,
Which we had taken carelessly
From other hands. Nay, we shall dread,
If we return,
Dread lest we hold blood-guiltily
The things that men have died to free.
Oh, English fields shall blossom red
For all the blood that has been shed
By men whose guardians are we,
If we return.


LXIII

A People renewed

NOW these like men shall live,
And like to princes fall.
They take what Fate will give
At this great festival.


And since at length they find
That life is sweet indeed,
They cast it on the wind
To serve their country's need.


See young "Adventure" there
("Make-money-quick" that was)
Hurls down his gods that were
For Honour and the Cross!


Old "Grab-at-Gold" lies low
In Flanders. And again
(Because men will it so)
England is ruled by Men.


LXIV

Afterwards

THOSE dreadful evidences of Man's ill-doing
The kindly Mother of all shall soon hide deep,
Covering with tender fingers her children asleep,
Till Time's slow cycle turns them to renewing
In other forms their beauty—No grief, no rueing
Irrevocable woe. They'll lie, they'll steep
Their hearts in peace unfathomed, till they leap
Quick to the light of the sun, as flowers strewing,
Maybe, their own friends' paths. And that's not all.
When men who knew them walk old ways alone,
The paths they loved together, at even-fall,
Then the sad heart shall know a presence near,
Friendly, familiar, and the old grief gone,
The new keen joy shall make all darkness clear.


LXV

When it's Over

"YOUNG soldier, what will you be
When it's all over?"
"I shall get out and across the sea,
Where land's cheap and a man can thrive.
I shall make money. Perhaps I'll wive
In a place where there's room for a family.
I'm a bit of a rover."


"Young soldier, what will you be
At the last 'Dismiss'?"
"Bucked to get back to old Leicester Square,
Where there's good champagne and a glad eye winking,
And no more 'Verey Lights' damnably blinking
Their weary, dreary, white-eyed stare.
I'll be out of this."


"Young soldier, what will you be
When they sign the peace?"
"Blowed if I know; perhaps I shall stick it.
The job's all right if you take it steady.
After all, somebody's got to be ready,
And tons of the blighters 'll get their ticket.
Wars don't cease."


"Young soldier, what will you be
At the day's end?"
"Tired's what I'll be. I shall lie on the beach
Of a shore where the rippling waves just sigh,
And listen and dream and sleep and lie
Forgetting what I've had to learn and teach
And attack and defend."


"Young soldier, what will you be
When you're next a-bed?"
"God knows what; but it doesn't matter,
For whenever I think, I always remember
The Belgians massacred that September,
And England's pledge—and the rest seems chatter.
What if I am dead?"


"Young soldier, what will you be
When it's all done?"
"I shall come back and live alone
On an English farm in the Sussex Weald,
Where the wounds in my mind will be slowly sealed,
And the graves in my heart will be overgrown;
And I'll sit in the sun."


"Young soldier, what will you be
At the 'Last Post'?"
"Cold, cold in the tender earth,
A cold body in foreign soil;
But a happy spirit fate can't spoil,
And an extra note in the blackbird's mirth
From a khaki ghost."


LXVI

Optimism

AT last there'll dawn the last of the long year,
Of the long year that seemed to dream no end;
Whose every dawn but turned the world more drear
And slew some hope, or led away some friend.
Or be you dark, or buffeting, or blind,
We care not, Day, but leave not death behind.


The hours that feed on war go heavy-hearted:
Death is no fare wherewith to make hearts fain;
Oh! We are sick to find that they who started
With glamour in their eyes come not again.
O Day, be long and heavy if you will,
But on our hopes set not a bitter heel.


For tiny hopes, like tiny flowers of spring,
Will come, though death and ruin hold the land;
Though storms may roar they may not break the wing
Of the earthed lark whose song is ever bland.
Fell year unpitiful, slow days of scorn,
Your kind shall die, and sweeter days be born.