Where Rheims burns, that was given
By France to Mary, Queen of Heaven?
Oh, our Rheims, our Rheims is down,
Naught is left of her renown.
Hist! what sound is in the breeze
Like the sighing of forest trees?
Or the great wind, or an army,
Or the waves of the wild sea?
The tall knight rides fierce and fast
To the sound of a trumpet-blast.
The little knight in fire and flame,
Slender and soft as a dame,
Rides and is not far behind:
His long hair floats on the wind,
And ever the tramp of chivalry
Comes like the sound of the sea.
This is Michael rides abroad,
Prince of the army of God,
And this like a lily arrayed
Is Joan, the blessed Maid.
Rheims is down in fire and smoke
And the hour of God’s at the stroke.
Under our curtain of fire,
Over the clotted clods,
We charged, to be withered, to reel
And despairingly wheel
When the signal bade us retire
From the terrible odds.
As we ebbed with the battle-tide,
Fingers of red-hot steel
Suddenly closed on my side.
I fell, and began to pray.
I crawled on my hands and lay
Where a shallow crater yawned wide;
When I woke, it was yet day.
Fierce was the pain of my wound,
But I saw it was death to stir,
For fifty paces away
Their trenches were.
In torture I prayed for the dark
And the stealthy step of my friend
Who, stanch to the very end,
Would creep to the danger zone
And offer his life as a mark
To save my own.
Night fell. I heard his tread,
Not stealthy, but firm and serene,
As if my comrade’s head
Were lifted far from that scene
Of passion and pain and dread;
As if my comrade’s heart
In carnage took no part;
As if my comrade’s feet
Were set on some radiant street
Such as no darkness might haunt;
As if my comrade’s eyes
No deluge of flame could surprise,
No death and destruction daunt,
No red-beaked bird dismay,
Nor sight of decay.
Then in the bursting shells’ dim light
I saw he was clad in white.
For a moment I thought that I saw the smock
Of a shepherd in search of his flock.
Alert were the enemy, too,
And their bullets flew
Straight at a mark no bullet could fail;
For the seeker was tall and his robe was bright;
But he did not flee nor quail.
Instead, with unhurrying stride
And gathering my tall frame,
Like a child, in his arms....
Again I slept,
From a blissful dream
In a cave by a stream.
My silent comrade had bound my side.
No pain now was mine, but a wish that I spoke,—
A mastering wish to serve this man
Who had ventured through hell my doom to revoke,