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Title: The Young Guard
Author: Hornung, E. W. (Ernest William)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Young Guard" ***

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THE YOUNG GUARD

By E. W. Hornung

London: Constable and Company Ltd.

1919



_Most of these pieces appeared during the war.
The usual acknowledgements are tendered to The
Spectator in three cases and The Times in two,
as well as to Land and Water, The
Cologne Post and sundry School Magazines._



CONSECRATION


               _Children we deemed you all the days

                   We vexed you with our care:

               But in a Universe ablaze,

                   What was your childish share?

               To rush upon the flames of Hell,

                   To quench them with your blood!

               To be of England's flower that fell

                   Ere yet it brake the bud!



               And we who wither where we grew,

                   And never shed but tears,

               As children now would follow you

                   Through the remaining years;

               Tread' in the steps we thought to guide,

                   As firmly as you trod;

               And keep the name you glorified

                   Clean before matt and God._



LORD'S LEAVE

(1915)


               No Lord's this year: no silken lawn on which

                   A dignified and dainty throng meanders.

               The Schools take guard upon a fierier pitch

                        Somewhere in Flanders.



               Bigger the cricket here; yet some who tried

                   In vain to earn a Colour while at Eton

               Have found a place upon an England side

                        That can't be beaten!



               A demon bowler's bowling with his head--

                   His heart's as black as skins in Carolina!

               Either he breaks, or shoots almost as dead

                        As Anne Regina;



               While the deep-field-gun, trained upon your

                   stumps,

               From concrete grand-stand far beyond the

                   bound'ry,

               Lifts up his ugly mouth and fairly pumps

                        Shells from Krupp's foundry.



               But like the time the game is out of joint--

                   No screen, and too much mud for cricket

                        lover;

               Both legs go slip, and there's sufficient point

                        In extra cover!



               Cricket? 'Tis Sanscrit to the super-Hun--

                   Cheap cross between Caligula and Cassius,

               To whom speech, prayer, and warfare are all

                   one--

                        Equally gaseous!



               Playing a game's beyond him and his hordes;

                   Theirs but to play the snake or wolf or

                        vulture:

               Better one sporting lesson learnt at Lord's

                        Than all their Kultur....



               Sinks a torpedoed Phoebus from our sight;

                   Over the field of play see darkness stealing;

               Only in this one game, against the light

                        There's no appealing.



               Now for their flares... and now at last the

                   stars...

               Only the stars now, in their heavenly million,

               Glisten and blink for pity on our scars

                   From the Pavilion.



LAST POST

(1915)


               Last summer, centuries ago,

               I watched the postman's lantern glow,

               As night by night on leaden feet

               He twinkled down our darkened street.



               So welcome on his beaten track,

               The bent man with the bulging sack!

               But dread of every sleepless couch,

               A whistling imp with leathern pouch!



               And now I meet him in the way,

               And earth is Heaven, night is Day,

               For oh! there shines before his lamp

               An envelope without a stamp!



               Address in pencil; overhead,

               The Censor's triangle in red.

               Indoors and up the stair I bound:

               One from the boy, still safe, still sound!



               "Still merry in a dubious trench

               They've taken over from the French;

               Still making light of duty done;

               Still full of Tommy, Fritz, and fun!



               Still finding War of games the cream,

               And his platoon a priceless team--

               Still running it by sportsman's rule,

               Just as he ran his house at school.



               "Still wild about the 'bombing stunt'

               He makes his hobby at the front.

               Still trustful of his wondrous luck--

               Prepared to take on old man Kluck!'"



               Awed only in the peaceful spells,

               And only scornful of their shells,

               His beaming eye yet found delight

               In ruins lit by flares at night,



               In clover field and hedgerow green,

               Apart from cover or a screen,

               In Nature spurting spick-and-span

               For all the devilries of Man.



               He said those weeks of blood and tears

               Were worth his score of radiant years.

               He said he had not lived before--

               Our boy who never dreamt of War!



               He gave us of his own dear glow,

               Last summer, centuries ago.

               Bronzed leaves still cling to every bough.

               I don't waylay the postman now.



               Doubtless upon his nightly beat

               He still comes twinkling down our street.

               I am not there with straining eye--

               A whistling imp could tell you why.



THE OLD BOYS

(1917)


               "Who is the one with the empty sleeve?"

                   "Some sport who was in the swim."

               "And the one with the ribbon who's home on

                        leave?"

               "Good Lord! I remember _him!_

               A hulking fool, low down in the school,

                   And no good at games was he--

               All fingers and thumbs--and very few chums.

                   (I wish he'd shake hands with me!)"



               "Who is the one with the heavy stick,

                   Who seems to walk from the shoulder?"

               "Why, many's the goal you have watched him

                        kick!"

                   "He's looking a lifetime older.

               Who is the one that's so full of fun--

                   I never beheld a blither--

               Yet his eyes are fixt as the furrow betwixt?"

                   "He cannot see out of either,"



               "Who are the ones that we cannot see,

                   Though we feel them as near as near?

               In Chapel one felt them bend the knee,

                   At the match one felt them cheer.

               In the deep still shade of the Colonnade,

                   In the ringing quad's full light,

               They are laughing here, they are chaffing there,

                   Yet never in sound or sight."



               "Oh, those are the ones who never shall leave,

                   As they once were afraid they would!

               They marched away from the school at eve,

                   But at dawn came back for good,

               With deathless blooms from uncoffin'd tombs

                   To lay at our Founder's shrine.

               As many are they as ourselves to-day,

                   And their place is yours and mine."



               "But who are the ones they can help or harm?"

                   "Each small boy, never so new,

               Has an Elder Brother to take his arm,

                   And show him the thing to do--

               And the thing to resist with a doubled fist,

                   If he'd be nor knave nor fool--

               And the Game to play if he'd tread the way

                   Of the School behind the school."



RUDDDY YOUNG GINGER

(1915)


               Ruddy young Ginger was somewhere in camp,

                   War broke it up in a day,

               Packing cadets of the steadier stamp

                   Home with the smallest delay.



               Ginger braves town in his O.T.C. rags--

                   Beards a Staff Marquis--the limb!

               Saying, "Your son, Sir, is one of my fags,"

                   Gets a Commission through him.



               Then to his tailor's for khaki _complet_;

                   Then to Pall Mall for a sword;

               Lastly, a wire to his people to say,

                   "Left school--joined the Line--are you

                        bored?"



                   And it _was_ a bit cool

                   (A term's fees in the pool

                   By a rule of the school).

                   There were those who said "Fool!"

                        Of young Ginger.



               Ruddy young Ginger! Who gave him that name?

                   Tommies who had his own nerve!

               "Into 'im, Ginger!" was heard in a game

                   With a neighbouring Special Reserve.

               Blushing and grinning and looking fifteen,

                   Ginger, with howitzer punt,

               Bags his man's wind as succinctly and clean

                   As he hopes to bag Huns at the front.

               Death on recruits who fall out by the way,

                   Sentries who yawn at their post,

               Yet he sang such a song at the Y.M.C.A.

                   That the C.O. turned green as a ghost!



                   Less the song than the stance,

                   And the dissolute dance,

                   Drew a glance so askance

                   That... they packed him to France,

                        Little Ginger.



               Next month, to the haunts of fine Ladies and

                        Lords

                   I ventured, in Grosvenor Square:

               The stateliest chambers were hospital wards--

                   And ruddy young Ginger was there.

               In spite of his hurts he looked never so red,

                   Nor ever less shy or sedate,

               Though his hair had been cropped (by machine-

                        gun, he said)

                   And bandages turbaned his pate.



               He was mostly in holes--but his cheek was

                        intact!

                   I could not but notice, with joy,

               The loveliest Sisters had most to transact

                   With ruddy young Ginger--some boy!



                   Slaying Huns by the tons,

                   With a smile like a nun's--

                   Oh! of all the brave ones,

                   All the sons of our guns--

                        Give me Ginger!



THE BALLAD OF ENSIGN JOY



THIS IS is the story of

                   Ensign Joy

                   And the obsolete

                        rank withal

                   That I love for each gentle English

                        boy

                   Who jumped to his country's

                        call.

                   By their fire and fun, and the

                        deeds they've done,

                   I would gazette them Second to

                        none

                   Who faces a gun in Gaul!)



IT is also the story of Ermyntrude

                   A less appropriate name

                   For the dearest prig and the

                        prettiest prude!

                   But under it, all the same,

                   The usual consanguineous squad

                   Had made her an honest child

                        of God--

                   And left her to play the game.



IT was just when the grind of

                        the Special Reserves,

                   Employed upon Coast Defence,

                   Was getting on every Ensign's

                        nerves--

                   Sick-keen to be drafted

                        hence--

                   That they met and played tennis

                        and danced and sang,

                   The lad with the laugh and the

                        schoolboy slang,

                   The girl with the eyes intense.



YET it wasn't for him that she

                        languished and sighed,

                   But for all of our dear deemed

                        youth;

                   And it wasn't for her, but her

                        sex, that he cried,

                   If he could but have probed

                        the truth !

                   Did she? She would none of his

                        hot young heart;

                   As khaki escort he's tall and

                        smart,

                   As lover a shade uncouth.



HE went with his draft. She

                        returned to her craft.

                   He wrote in his merry vein:

                   She read him aloud, and the

                   Studio laughed!

                   Ermyntrude bore the strain.

                   He was full of gay bloodshed and

                   Old Man Fritz:

                   His flippancy sent her friends

                        into fits.

                   Ermyntrude frowned with

                        pain.



HIS tales of the Sergeant who

                        swore so hard

                   Left Ermyntrude cold and

                        prim;

                   The tactless truth of the picture

                        jarred,

                   And some of his jokes were

                        grim.

                   Yet, let him but skate upon

                        tender ice,

                   And he had to write to her twice

                        or thrice

                   Before she would answer him.



YET once she sent him a

                        fairy's box,

                   And her pocket felt the brunt

                   Of tinned contraptions and

                        books and socks--

                   Which he hailed as "a sporting

                        stunt!"

                   She slaved at his muffler none

                        the less,

                   And still took pleasure in mur-

                        muring, "Yes!

                   For a friend of mine at the

                   Front.")



ONE fine morning his name

                        appears--

                   Looking so pretty in print!

                   "Wounded!" she warbles in

                        tragedy tears--

                   And pictures the reddening

                        lint,

                   The drawn damp face and the

                        draggled hair . . .

                   But she found him blooming in

                   Grosvenor Square,

                   With a punctured shin in a

                        splint.



IT wasn't a haunt of Ermyn-

                        trude's,

                   That grandiose urban pile;

                   Like starlight in arctic altitudes

                   Was the stately Sister's smile.

                   It was just the reverse with

                   Ensign Joy--

                   In his golden greeting no least

                        alloy--

                   In his shining eyes no guile!



HE showed her the bullet that

                        did the trick--

                   He showed her the trick,

                        x-ray'd;

                   He showed her a table timed to

                        a tick,

                   And a map that an airman

                        made.

                   He spoke of a shell that caused grievous loss--

                   But he never mentioned a certain

                        cross

                   For his part in the escapade!



SHE saw it herself in a list next

                        day,

                   And it brought her back to his

                        bed,

                   With a number of beautiful

                        things to say,

                   Which were mostly over his

                        head.

                   Turned pink as his own pyjamas'

                        stripe,

                   To her mind he ceased to em-

                        body a type--

                   Sank into her heart instead.



I WONDER that all of you

                        didn't retire!"

                   "My blighters were not that

                        kind."

                   "But it says _you_ 'advanced un-

                        der murderous fire,

                   Machine-gun and shell com-

                        bined--'"

                   "Oh, that's the regular War

                   Office wheeze!"

                   "'Advanced'--with that leg!--

                        'on his hands and knees'!"

                   "I couldn't leave it behind."



HE was soon trick-driving an

                        invalid chair,

                        and dancing about on a crutch;

                   The _haute noblesse_ of Grosvenor

                   Square

                   Felt bound to oblige as such;

                   They sent him for many a motor-

                        whirl--

                   With the wistful, willowy wisp of

                        a girl

                   Who never again lost touch.



THEIR people were most of

                        them dead and gone.

                   They had only themselves to

                   His pay was enough to marry

                        upon,

                   As every Ensign sees.

                   They would muddle along (as

                        in fact they did)

                   With vast supplies of the _tertium

                        quid_

                   You bracket with bread-and-

                        cheese.

                        please.



THEY gave him some leave

                        after Grosvenor Square--

                   And bang went a month on

                        banns;

                   For Ermyntrude had a natural

                        _flair_

                   For the least unusual plans.

                   Her heaviest uncle came down

                        well,

                   And entertained, at a fair hotel,

                   The dregs of the coupled clans.



A CERTAIN number of

                        cheques accrued

                   To keep the wolf from the

                        door:

                   The economical Ermyntrude

                   Had charge of the dwindling

                        store,

                   When a Board reported her

                        bridegroom fit

                   As--some expression she didn't

                        permit . . .

                   And he left for the Front once

                        more.



HIS crowd had been climbing

                        the jaws of hell:

                   He found them in death's dog-

                        teeth,

                   With little to show but a good

                        deal to tell

                   In their fissure of smoking

                        heath.

                   There were changes--of course

                        --but the change in him

                   Was the ribbon that showed on

                        his tunic trim

                   And the tumult hidden be-

                        neath!



FOR all he had suffered and

                        seen before

                   Seemed nought to a husband's

                        care;

                   And the Chinese puzzle of mod-

                        ern war

                   For subtlety couldn't compare

                   With the delicate springs of the

                        complex life

                   To be led with a highly sensitised

                        wife

                   In a slightly rarefied air!



YET it's good to be back with

                        the old platoon--

                   "A man in a world of men"!

                   Each cheery dog is a henchman

                        boon--

                   Especially Sergeant Wren!

                   Ermyntrude couldn't endure his

                        name--

                   Considered bad language no lien

                        on fame,

                   Yet it's good to--hear it

                        again!



BETTER to feel the Ser-

                        geant's grip,

                   Though your fingers ache to

                        the bone!

                   Better to take the Sergeant's tip

                   Than to make up your mind

                        alone.

                   They can do things together, can

                   Wren and Joy--

                   The bristly bear and the beard-

                        less boy--

                   That neither could do on his

                        own.



BUT there's never a word

                        about Old Man Wren

                   In the screeds he scribbles

                        to-day--

                   Though he praises his N.C.O.'s

                        and men

                   In rather a pointed way.

                   And he rubs it in (with a knitted

                        brow)

                   That the war's as good as a pic-

                        nic now,

                   And better than any play!



HIS booby-hutch is "as safe

                        as the Throne,"

                   And he fares "like the C.-in-

                   Chief,"

                   But has purchased "a top-hole

                        gramophone

                   By way of comic relief."

                   (And he sighs as he hears the

                        men applaud,

                   While the Woodbine spices are

                        wafted abroad

                   With the odour of bully-beef.)



HE may touch on the latest

                        type of bomb,

                   But Ermyntrude needn't

                        blench,

                   For he never says where you hurl

                        it from,

                   And it might be from your

                        trench.

                   He never might lead a stealthy

                        band,

                   Or toe the horrors of No Man's

                   Land,

                   Or swim at the sickly stench. . . .



HER letters came up by

                        ration-cart

                   As the men stood-to before

                        dawn:

                   He followed the chart of her

                        soaring heart

                   With face transfigured yet

                        drawn:

                   It filled him with pride, touched

                        with chivalrous shame.

                   But--it spoilt the war, as a first-

                        class game,

                   For this particular pawn.



THE Sergeant sees it, and

                        damns the cause

                   In a truly terrible flow;

                   But turns and trounces, without

                        a pause,

                   A junior N. C. O.

                   For the crime of agreeing that

                   Ensign Joy

                   Isn't altogether the officer boy

                   That he was four months ago!



AT length he's dumfounded

                        (the month being May)

                   By a sample of Ermyntrude's

                        fun!

                   "You will kindly get leave _over

                   Christmas Day_,

                   Or make haste and finish the

                   But Christmas means presents,

                        she bids him beware:

                   "So what do you say to a son and

                        heir?

                   I'm thinking of giving you

                   Hun!"



WHAT, indeed, does the

                   Ensign say?

                   What does he sit and write?

                   What do his heart-strings drone all day?

                   What do they throb all night?

                   What does he add to his piteous

                        prayers?--

                   "Not for my own sake, Lord, but

                        --_theirs_,

                   See me safe through ..."



THEY talk--and he writhes

                        --"of our spirit out here,

                   Our valour and all the rest!

                   There's my poor, lonely, delicate

                        dear,

                   As brave as the very best!

                   We stand or fall in a cheery

                        crowd,

                   And yet how often we grouse

                        aloud!

                   She faces _that_ with a jest!"



HE has had no sleep for a day

                        and a night;

                   He has written her half a

                        ream;

                   He has Iain him down to wait for

                        the light,

                   And at last come sleep--and a

                        dream.

                   He's hopping on sticks up the

                        studio stair:

                   A telegraph-boy is waiting there,

                   And--that is his darling's

                        scream!



HE picks her up in a tender

                        storm--

                   But how does it come to pass

                   That he cannot see his reflected

                        form

                   With hers in the studio glass?

                   "What's wrong with that mir-

                        ror?"' he cries.

                   But only the Sergeant's voice

                        replies:

                   "Wake up, Sir! The Gas--

                        the Gas!"



IS it a part of the dream of

                        dread?

                   What are the men about?

                   Each one sticking a haunted

                        head

                   Into a spectral clout!

                   Funny, the dearth of gibe and

                        joke,

                   When each one looks like a pig

                        in a poke,

                   Not omitting the snout!



THERE'S your mask, Sir! No

                        time to lose!"

                   Ugh, what a gallows shape!

                   Partly white cap, and partly

                        noose!

                   Somebody ties the tape.

                   Goggles of sorts, it seems, inset:

                   Cock them over the parapet,

                   Study the battlescape.



ENSIGN JOY'S in the second

                        line--

                   And more than a bit cut off;

                   A furlong or so down a green

                        incline

                   The fire-trench curls in the

                        trough.

                   Joy cannot see it--it's in the bed

                   Of a river of poison that brims

                        instead.

                   He can only hear--a cough!



NOTHING to do for the

                   Companies there--

                   Nothing but waiting now,

                   While the Gas rolls up on the

                        balmy air,

                   And a small bird cheeps on a

                        bough.

                   All of a sudden the sky seems full

                   Of trusses of lighted cotton-wool

                   And the enemy's big bow-

                        wow!



THE firmament cracks with

                        his airy mines,

                   And an interlacing hail

                   Threshes the clover between our

                        lines,

                   As a vile invisible flail.

                   And the trench has become a

                        mighty vice

                   That holds us, in skins of molten

                        ice,

                   For the vapors that fringe the

                        veil.



IT'S coming--in billowy swirls

                        --as smoke

                   From the roof a world on fire.

                   It--comes! And a lad with a

                        heart of oak

                   Knows only that heart's de-

                        sire!

                   His masked lips whimper but one

                        dear name--

                   And so is he lost to inward shame

                   That he thrills at the word:

                   "_Re-tire!_"



WHOSE is the order, thrice

                        renewed?

                   Ensign Joy cannot tell :

                   Only, that way lies Ermyntrude,

                   And the other way this hell!

                   Three men leap from the pois-

                        oned fosse,

                   Three men plunge from the para-

                        dos,

                   And--their--officer--as well!



NOW, as he flies at their fly-

                        ing heels,

                   He awakes to his deep dis-

                        grace,

                   But the yawning pit of his shame

                        reveals

                   A way of saving his face:

                   He twirls his stick to a shep-

                        herd's crook,

                   To trip and bring one of them

                        back to book,

                   As though he'd been giving

                        chase!



HE got back gasping--

                   "They'd too much start!"

                   "I'd've shot 'em instead!"

                        said Wren.

                   "That was your job, Sir, if you'd

                        the 'eart--

                   But it wouldn't 've been you,

                        then.

                   I pray my Lord I may live to see

                   A firing-party in front o' them

                        three!"

                   (That's what he said to the

                        men.)



NOW, Joy and Wren, of

                        Company B,

                   Are a favourite firm of mine;

                   And the way they reinforced A,

                   C, and D

                   Was, perhaps, not unduly fine;

                   But it meant a good deal both to

                   Wren and Joy--

                   That grim, gaunt man, but that

                        desperate boy!--

                   And it didn't weaken the Line.



NOT a bad effort of yours,

                        my lad,"

                   The Major deigned to declare.

                   "My Sergeant's plan, Sir"--

                   "And that's not bad--

                   But you've lost that ribbon

                        you wear?"

                   "It--must have been eaten away

                        by the Gas!"

                   "Well--ribbons are ribbons--

                        but don't be an ass!

                   It's better to do than dare."



DARE! He has dared to de-

                        sert his post--

                   But he daren't acknowledge

                        his sin!

                   He has dared to face Wren with

                        a lying boast--

                   But Wren is not taken in.

                   None sings his praises so long

                        and loud--

                   With look so loving and loyal

                        and proud!

                   But the boy sees under his

                        skin.



DAILY and gaily he wrote to

                        his wife,

                   Who had dropped the beati-

                        fied droll

                   And was writing to him on the

                   Meaning of Life

                   And the Bonds between Body

                        and Soul.

                   Her courage was high--though

                        she mentioned its height;

                   She was putting upon her the

                   Armour of Light--

                   Including her aureole!



BUT never a helm had the lad

                        we know,

                   As he went on his nightly raids

                   With a brace of his Blighters, an

                   N. G O.

                   And a bagful of hand-grenades

                   And the way he rattled and

                        harried the Hun--

                   The deeds he did dare, and the

                        risks he would run--

                   Were the gossip of the Bri-

                        gades.



HOW he'd stand stockstill as

                        the trunk of a tree,

                   With his face tucked down

                        out of sight,

                   When a flare went up and the

                        other three

                   Fell prone in the frightening

                        light.

                   How the German sandbags, that

                        made them quake,

                   Were the only cover he cared to

                        take,

                   But he'd eavesdrop there all

                        night.



MACHINE-GUNS, tapping

                        a phrase in Morse,

                   Grew hot on a random quest,

                   And swarms of bullets buzzed

                        down the course

                   Like wasps from a trampled

                        nest.

                   Yet, that last night!

                   They had just set off

                   When he pitched on his face with

                        a smothered cough,

                   And a row of holes in his chest.



HE left a letter. It saved

                        the lives

                   Of the three who ran from the

                   Gas;

                   A small enclosure alone survives,

                   In Middlesex, under glass:

                   Only the ribbon that left his

                        breast

                   On the day he turned and ran

                        with the rest,

                   And lied with a lip of brass!



BUT the letters they wrote

                        about the boy,

                   From the Brigadier to the

                        men!

                   They would never forget dear

                   Mr. Joy,

                   Not look on his like again.

                   Ermyntrude read them with dry,

                        proud eye.

                   There was only one letter that

                        made her cry.

                   It was from Sergeant Wren:



THERE never was such a fear-

                        less man,

                   Or one so beloved as he.

                   He was always up to some daring

                        plan,

                   Or some treat for his men and

                        me.

                   There wasn't his match when he

                        went away;

                   But since he got back, there has

                        not been a day

                   But what he has earned a

                   V. C



A CYNICAL story? That's

                        not my view.

                   The years since he fell are

                        twain.

                   What were his chances of coming

                        through?

                   Which of his friends remain?

                   But Ermyntrude's training a

                        splendid boy

                   Twenty years younger than En-

                        sign Joy.

                   On balance, a British gain!



AND Ermyntrude, did she

                        lose her all

                   Or find it, two years ago?

                   O young girl-wives of the boys

                        who fall,

                   With your youth and your

                        babes to show!

                   No heart but bleeds for your

                        widowhood.

                   Yet Life is with you, and Life is

                        good.

                   No bone of _your_ bone lies low!



YOUR blessedness came--as

                        it went--in a day.

                   Deep dread but heightened

                        your mirth.

                   Your idols' feet never turned to

                        clay--

                   Never lit upon common earth.

                   Love is the Game but is _not_ the

                   Goal:

                   You played it together, body and

                        soul,

                   And you had your Candle's

                        worth.



YES! though the Candle light

                        a Shrine,

                   And heart cannot count the

                        cost,

                   You are Winners yet in its tender

                        shine!

                   Would _they_ choose to have

                        lived and lost?

                   There are chills, you see, for the

                        finest hearts;

                   But, once it is only old Death

                        that parts,

                   There can never come twinge

                        of frost.



AND this be our comfort for

                   Every Boy

                   Cut down in his high heyday,

                   Or ever the Sweets of the Morn-

                        ing cloy,

                   Or the Green Leaf wither

                        away;

                   So a sunlit billow curls to a crest,

                   And shouts as it breaks at its

                        loveliest,

                   In a glory of rainbow spray!



BE it also the making of

                   Ermyntrude,

                   And many a hundred more--

                   Compact of foibles and forti-

                        tude--

                   Woo'd, won, and widow'd, in

                   War.

                   God, keep us gallant and unde-

                        filed,

                   Worthy of Husband, Lover, or

                        --Child...

                   Sweet as themselves at the

                        core!



BOND AND FREE

(The Bapaume Road, _March_ 1917)


               Misty and pale the sunlight, brittle and black the

                   trees;

               Roads powdered like sticks of candy for a car to

                   crunch as they freeze...

               Then we overtook a Battalion... and it wasn't

                   a roadway then,

               But cymbals and drums and dulcimers to the

                   beat of the marching men!



               They were laden and groomed for the trenches,

                   they were shaven and scrubbed and fed;

               Like the scales of a single Saurian their helmets

                   rippled ahead;

               Not a sorrowful face beneath them, just the tail

                   of a scornful eye

               For the car full of favoured mufti that went

                   quacking and quaking by.



               You gloat and take note in your motoring coat,

                   and the sights come fast and thick:

               A party of pampered prisoners, toying with shovel

                   and pick;

               A town where some of the houses are so many

                   heaps of stone,

               And some of them steel anatomies picked clean

                   to the buckled bone.



               A road like a pier in a hurricane of mountainous

                   seas of mud,

               Where a few trees, whittled to walking-sticks, rose

                   out of the frozen flood

               Like the masts of the sunken villages that might

                   have been down below--

               Or blown off the festering face of an earth that

                   God Himself wouldn't know!



               Not a yard but was part of a shell-hole--not an

                   inch, to be more precise--

               And most of the holes held water, and all the

                   water was ice:

               They stared at the bleak blue heavens like the

                   glazed blue eyes of the slain,

               Till the snow came, shutting them gently, and

                   sheeting the slaughtered plain.



               Here a pile of derelict rifles, there a couple of

                   horses lay--

               Like rockerless rocking-horses, as wooden of leg

                   as they,

               And not much redder of nostril--not anything

                   like so grim

               As the slinking ghoul of a lean live cat creeping

                   over the crater's rim!



               And behind and beyond and about us were the

                   long black Dogs of War,

               With pigmies pulling their tails for them, and

                   making the monsters roar

               As they slithered back on their haunches, as they

                   put out their flaming tongues,

               And spat a murderous message long leagues from

                   their iron lungs!



               They were kennelled in every corner, and some

                   were in gay disguise,

               But all kept twitching their muzzles and baying

                   the silvery skies!

               A howitzer like a hyena guffawed point-blank at

                   the car--

               But only the sixty - pounder leaves an absolute

                   aural scar!



               (Could a giant but crack a cable as a stockman

                   cracks his whip,

               Or tear up a mile of calico with one unthinkable

                   r-r-r-r-rip!

               Could he only squeak a slate-pencil about the

                   size of this gun,

               You might get some faint idea of its sound, which

                   is those three sounds in one.)



               But certain noises were absent, we looked for

                   some sights in vain,

               And I cannot tell you if shrapnel does really

                   descend like rain--

               Or Big Stuff burst like a bonfire, or bullets

                   whistle or moan;

               But the other figures I'll swear to--if some of

                   'em _are_ my own!



               Livid and moist the twilight, heavy with snow

                   the trees,

               And a road as of pleated velvet the colour of new

                   cream-cheese...

               Then we overtook a Battalion... and I'm

                   hunting still for the word

               For that gaunt, undaunted, haunted, whitening,

                   frightening herd!



               They had done their tour of the trenches, they

                   were coated and caked with mud,

               And some of them wore a bandage, and some of

                   them wore their blood!

               The gaps in their ranks were many, and none of

                   them looked at me...

               And I thought of no more vain phrases for the

                   things I was there to see,

               But I felt like a man in a prison van where the

                   rest of the world goes Free.



SHELL-SHOCK IN ARRAS


               All night they crooned high overhead

                   As the skies are over men:

               I lay and smiled in my cellar bed,

                   And went to sleep again.



               All day they whistled like a lash

                   That cracked in the trembling town:

               I stood and listened for the crash

                   Of houses thundering down.



               In, in they came, three nights and days,

                   All night and all day long;

               It made us learned in their ways

                       And experts on their song.



               Like a noisy clock, or a steamer's screw,

                   Their beat debauched the ear,

               And left it dead to a deafening few

                   That burst who cared how near?

               We only laughed when the flimsy floor

                   Heaved on the shuddering sod:

               But when some idiot slammed a door--

                   My God!



THE BIG THING

(1918)


               It was a British Linesman. His face was like a

                   fist,

               His sleeve all stripes and chevrons from the

                   elbow to the wrist.

               Said he to an American (with other words of his):

               "It's a big thing you are doing--do you know

                   how big it is?"



               "I guess, Sir," that American inevitably drawled,

               "Big Bill's our proposition an' we're goin' for him

                   bald.

               You guys may have him rattled, but I figure it's

                   for us

               To slaughter, quarter, grill or bile, an' masticate

                   the cuss."



               "I hope your teeth," the Linesman said, "are

                   equal to your tongue--

               But that's the sort of carrion that's better when

                   it's hung.

               Yet--the big thing you're doing I should like to

                   make you see!"

               "Our stunt," said that young Yankee, "is to set

                   the whole world free!"



               The Linesman used a venial verb (and other parts

                   of speech):

               "That's just the way the papers talk and

                   politicians preach!

               But apart from gastronomical designs upon the

                   Hun--

               And the rather taller order--there's a big thing

                   that you've _done_."



               "Why, say! The biggest thing on earth, to any

                   cute onlooker,

               Is Old Man Bull and Uncle Sam aboard the

                   same blamed hooker!

               One crew, one port, one speed ahead, steel-true

                   twin-hearts within her:

               One ding-dong English-singin' race--a race

                   without a winner!"



               The boy's a boyish mixture--half high-brow and

                   half droll:

               So brave and naïve and cock-a-hoop--so sure

                   yet pure of soul!

               Behold him bright and beaming as the bride-

                   groom after church--

               The Linesman looking wistful as a rival in the

                   lurch!



               "I'd love to be as young as you--" he doesn't

                   even swear--

               "Love to be joining up anew and spoiling for my

                   share!

               But when your blood runs cold and old, and brain

                   and bowels squirm,

               The only thing to ease you is some fresh blood in

                   the firm.



               "When the war was young, and _we_ were young,

                   we felt the same as you:

               A few short months of glory--and we didn't care

                   how few!

               French, British and Dominions, it took us all the

                   same--

               Who knows but what the Hun himself enjoyed

                   his dirty game!



               "We tumbled out of tradesmen's carts, we fell off

                   office stools;

               Fathers forsook their families, boys ran away from

                   schools;

               Mothers untied their apron-strings, lovers un-

                   loosed their arms--

               All Europe was a wedding and the bells were

                   war's alarms!



               "The chime had changed--You took a pull--the

                   old wild peal rings on

               With the clamour and the glamour of a Genera-

                   tion gone.

               Their fun--their fire--their hearts' desire--are

                   born again in You!"

               "_That_ the big thing we're doin'?"

                        "It's as big as Man can do!"



               FORERUNNERS *

(1900)


               When I lie dying in my bed,

                   A grief to wife, and child, and friend,--

               How I shall grudge you gallant dead

                   Your sudden, swift, heroic end!



               Dear hands will minister to me,

                   Dear eyes deplore each shallower breath:

               You had your battle-cries, you three,

                   To cheer and charm you to your death.



               You did not wane from worse to worst,

                   Under coarse drug or futile knife,

               But in one grand mad moment burst

                   From glorious life to glorious Life....



               These twenty years ago and more,

                   'Mid purple heather and brown crag,

               Our whole school numbered scarce a score,

                   And three have fallen for the Flag.


    * H. P. P.--F. M. J. W. A. C. St. Ninian's, Moffat, 1879-
      1880; South Africa, 1899-1900.



               You two have finished on one side,

                   You who were friend and foe at play;

               Together you have done and died;

                   But that was where you learnt the way.



               And the third face! I see it now,

                   So delicate and pale and brave.

               The clear grey eye, the unruffled brow,

                   Were ripening for a soldier's grave.



               Ah! gallant three, too young to die!

                   The pity of it all endures.

               Yet, in my own poor passing, I

                   Shall lie and long for such as yours.



UPPINGHAM SONG

(1913)


               Ages ago (as to-day they are reckoned)

                   I was a lone little, blown little fag:

               Panting to heel when Authority beckoned,

                   Spoiling to write for the _Uppingham Mag.!_

               Thirty years on seemed a terrible time then--

                   Thirty years back seems a twelvemonth or so.

               Little I saw myself spinning this rhyme then--

                   Less do I feel that it's ages ago!



               Ages ago that was Somebody's study;

                   Somebody Else had the study next door.

               O their long walks in the fields dry or muddy!

                   O their long talks in the evenings of yore!

               Still, when they meet, the old evergreen fellows

                   Jaw in the jolly old jargon as though

               Both were as slender and sound in the bellows

                   As they were ages and ages ago!



               O but the ghosts at each turn I could show

                        you!--

                   Ghosts in low collars and little cloth caps--

               Each of 'em now quite an elderly O.U.--

                   Wiser, no doubt, and as pleasant--perhaps!

               That's where poor Jack lit the slide up with

                        tollies,

                   Once when the quad was a foot deep in snow--

               When a live Bishop was one of the Pollies * --

                   Ages and ages and ages ago!



               Things that were Decent and things that were

                        Rotten,

                   How I remember them year after year!

               Some--it may be--that were better forgotten:

                   Some that--it may be--should still draw a

                        tear...

               More, many more, that are good to remember:

                   Yarns that grow richer, the older they grow:

               Deeds that would make a man's ultimate ember

                   Glow with the fervour of ages ago!



               Did we play footer in funny long flannels?

                   Had we no Corps to give zest to our drill?

               Never a Gym lined throughout with pine panels?

                   Half of your best buildings were quarry-stone

                        still?


     * Præpostors.


               Ah! but it's not for their looks that you love

                        them,

                   Not for the craft of the builder below,

               But for the spirit behind and above them--

                   But for the Spirit of Ages Ago!



               Eton may rest on her Field and her River.

                   Harrow has songs that she knows how to sing.

               Winchester slang makes the sensitive shiver.

                   Rugby had Arnold, but never had Thring!

               Repton can put up as good an Eleven.

                   Marlborough men are the fear of the foe.

               All that I wish to remark is--thank Heaven

                   I was at Uppingham ages ago!



WOODEN CROSSES

(1917)


               "Go live the wide world over--but when you

                   come to die, .

               A quiet English churchyard is the only place to

                   lie!

               I held it half a lifetime, until through war's

                   mischance

               I saw the wooden crosses that fret the fields of

                   France.



               A thrush sings in an oak-tree, and from the old

                   square tower

               A chime as sweet and mellow salutes the idle hour:

               Stone crosses take no notice--but the little

                   wooden ones

               Are thrilling every minute to the music of the guns!



               Upstanding at attention they face the cannonade,

               In apple-pie alinement like Guardsmen on parade:

               But Tombstones are Civilians who loll or sprawl

                   or sway

               At every crazy angle and stage of slow decay.



               For them the Broken Column--in its plot of

                   unkempt grass;

               The tawdry tinsel garland safeguarded under

                   glass;

               And the Squire's emblazoned virtues, that would

                   overweight a Saint,

               On the vault empaled in iron--scaling red for

                   want of paint!



               The men who die for England don't need it

                   rubbing in;

               An automatic stamper and a narrow strip of tin

               Record their date and regiment, their number and

                   their name--

               And the Squire who dies for England is treated

                   just the same.



               So stand the still battalions: alert, austere, serene;

               Each with his just allowance of brown earth shot

                   with green;

               None better than his neighbour in pomp or

                   circumstance--

               All beads upon the rosary that turned the fate of

                   France!



               Who says their war is over? While others carry

                   on,

               The little wooden crosses spell but the dead and

                   gone?

               Not while they deck a sky-line, not while they

                   crown a view,

               Or a living soldier sees them and sets his teeth

                   anew!

               The tenants of the churchyard where the singing

                   thrushes build

               Were not, perhaps, all paragons of promise well

                   fulfilled:

               Some failed--through Love, or Liquor--while the

                   parish looked askance.

               But--you cannot _die_ a Failure if you win a Cross

                   in France!



               The brightest gems of Valour in the Army's

                   diadem

               Are the V.C. and the D.S.O., M.C. and D.C.M.

               But those who live to wear them will tell you

                   they are dross

               Beside the Final Honour of a simple Wooden

                   Cross.





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