Epitaphs Of The War



    A. “I was a Have.” B. “I was a ‘have-not.’”
    (Together.) “What hast thou given which I gave not?”


    We were together since the War began.
    He was my servant, and the better man.

    A SON

    My son was killed while laughing at some jest. I would I knew
    What it was, and it might serve me in a time when jests are few.


    I have slain none except my Mother.
    She (Blessing her slayer) died of grief for me.


    Pity not! The Army gave
    Freedom to a timid slave:
    In which Freedom did he find
    Strength of body, will, and mind:
    By which strength he came to prove
    Mirth, Companionship, and Love:
    For which Love to Death he went:
    In which Death he lies content.


    Body and Spirit I surrendered whole
    To harsh Instructors, and received a soul . . .
    If mortal man could change me through and through
    From all I was, what may The God not do?


    This man in his own country prayed we know not to what Powers.
    We pray Them to reward him for his bravery in ours.


    I could not look on Death, which being known,
    Men led me to him, blindfold and alone.


    My name, my speech, my self I had forgot.
    My wife and children came, I knew them not.
    I died. My Mother followed. At her call
    And on her bosom I remembered all.


    Gods of the Nile, should this stout fellow here
    Get out, get out! He knows not shame nor fear.

    (A Grave Near Halfa)

    The blown sand heaps on me, that none may learn
    Where I am laid for whom my children grieve. . . .
    O wings that beat at dawning, ye return
    Out of the desert to your young at eve!


    Death favoured me from the first, well knowing I could not endure
    To wait on him day by day. He quitted my betters and came
    Whistling over the fields, and, when he had made all sure,
    “Thy line is at end,” he said, “but at least I have saved its name.”


    On the first hour of my first day
    In the front trench I fell.
    (Children in boxes at a play
    Stand up to watch it well.)


    Laughing through clouds, his milk-teeth still unshed,
    Cities and men he smote from overhead.
    His deaths delivered, he returned to play
    Childlike, with childish things now put away.


    I was of delicate mind. I stepped aside for my needs,
    Disdaining the common office. I was seen from afar and killed. . . .
    How is this matter for mirth? Let each man be judged by his deeds.
    I have paid my price to live with myself on the terms that I willed.


    Prometheus brought down fire to men.
    This brought up water.
    The Gods are jealous, now, as then,
    Giving no quarter.


    On land and sea I strove with anxious care
    To escape conscription. It was in the air!


    Faithless the watch that I kept: now I have none to keep.
    I was slain because I slept: now I am slain I sleep.
    Let no man reproach me again; whatever watch is unkept,
    I sleep because I am slain. They slew me because I slept.


    If any mourn us in the workshop, say
    We died because the shift kept holiday.


    If any question why we died,
    Tell them, because our fathers lied.


    I could not dig: I dared not rob:
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?


    If I had clamoured at Thy Gate
    For gift of Life on Earth,
    And, thrusting through the souls that wait,
    Flung headlong into birth,
    Even then, even then, for gin and snare
    About my pathway spread,
    Lord, I had mocked Thy thoughtful care
    Before I joined the Dead!
    But now? . . . I was beneath Thy Hand
    Ere yet the Planets came.
    And now, though Planets pass, I stand
    The witness to Thy shame.


    Daily, though no ears attended,
    Did my prayers arise.
    Daily, though no fire descended
    Did I sacrifice.
    Though my darkness did not lift,
    Though I faced no lighter odds,
    Though the Gods bestowed no gift,
            None the less,
    None the less, I served the Gods!


    He from the wind-bitten north with ship and companions descended.
    Searching for eggs of death spawned by invisible hulls.
    Many he found and drew forth. Of a sudden the fishery ended
    In flame and a clamorous breath not new to the eye-pecking gulls.


    For Fog and Fate no charm is found
    To lighten or amend.
    I, hurrying to my bride, was drowned,
    Cut down by my best friend.


    I was a shepherd to fools
    Causelessly bold or afraid.
    They would not abide by my rules.
    Yet they escaped. For I stayed.


    Headless, lacking foot and hand,
    Horrible I come to land.
    I beseech all women’s sons
    Know I was a mother once.


    One used and butchered me: another spied
    Me broken, for which thing an hundred died.
    So it was learned among the heathen hosts
    How much a freeborn woman’s favour costs.


    I have watched a thousand days
    Push out and crawl into night
    Slowly as tortoises.
    Now I, too, follow these.
    It is fever, and not the fight,
    Time, not battle, that slays.


    Call me not false, beloved,
    If, from thy scarce-known breast
    So little time removed,
    In other arms I rest.

    For this more ancient bride
    Whom coldly I embrace
    Was constant at my side
    Before I saw thy face.

    Our marriage, often set,
    By miracle delayed,
    At last is consummate,
    And cannot be unmade.

    Live, then, whom Life shall cure.
    Almost, of Memory,
    And leave us to endure
    Its immortality.


    Ah, would swift ships had never been, for then we ne’er had found,
    These harsh Ægean rocks between, this little virgin drowned,
    Whom neither spouse nor child shall mourn, but men she nursed through pain
    And, certain keels for whose return the heathen look in vain.


    On a Memorial Tablet in Holy Trinity Church,

    We counterfeited once for your disport
    Men’s joy and sorrow: but our day has passed.
    We pray you pardon all where we fell short
    Seeing we were your servants to this last.


    On a Panel in the Hall of the Institute of Journalists

    We have served our day.


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