Light many lamps and gather round his bed.
Lend him your eyes, warm blood, and will to live.
Speak to him; rouse him; you may save him yet.
He’s young; he hated war; how should he die
When cruel old campaigners win safe through?
But Death replied: “I choose him.”
So he went,
And there was silence in the summer night;
Silence and safety; and the veils of sleep.
Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.
Have you forgotten yet?... For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days, Like traffic checked awhile at the crossing of city ways: And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go, Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare. But the past is just the same,—and War’s a bloody game,... Have you forgotten yet?... Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.
Do you remember the dark months you held the sector
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench,—
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, “Is it all going to happen again?”
Do you remember that hour of din before the attack,—
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads,—those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet?... Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you’ll never forget.
In fifty years, when peace outshines
Remembrance of the battle lines,
Adventurous lads will sigh and cast
Proud looks upon the plundered past.
On summer morn or winter’s night,
Their hearts will kindle for the fight,
Reading a snatch of soldier-song,
Savage and jaunty, fierce and strong;
And through the angry marching rhymes
Of blind regret and haggard mirth,
They’ll envy us the dazzling times
When sacrifice absolved our earth.
Some ancient man with silver locks
Will lift his weary face to say:
“War was a fiend who stopped our clocks
Although we met him grim and gay.”
And then he’ll speak of Haig’s last drive,
Marvelling that any came alive
Out of the shambles that men built
And smashed, to cleanse the world of guilt.
But the boys, with grin and sidelong glance,
Will think, “Poor grandad’s day is done.”
And dream of lads who fought in France
And lived in time to share the fun.