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George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953). A Treasury of War Poetry. 1917.

George Edward Woodberry

Sonnets Written in the Fall of 1914

AWAKE, ye nations, slumbering supine,

Who round enring the European fray!

Heard ye the trumpet sound? “The Day! the Day!

The last that shall on England’s Empire shine!

The Parliament that broke the Right Divine

Shall see her realm of reason swept away,

And lesser nations shall the sword obey—

The sword o’er all carve the great world’s design!”

So on the English Channel boasts the foe

On whose imperial brow death’s helmet nods.

Look where his hosts o’er bloody Belgium go,

And mix a nation’s past with blazing sods!

A kingdom’s waste! a people’s homeless woe!

Man’s broken Word, and violated gods!

Far fall the day when England’s realm shall see

The sunset of dominion! Her increase

Abolishes the man-dividing seas,

And frames the brotherhood on earth to be!

She, in free peoples planting sovereignty,

Orbs half the civil world in British peace;

And though time dispossess her, and she cease,

Rome-like she greatens in man’s memory.

Oh, many a crown shall sink in war’s turmoil,

And many a new republic light the sky,

Fleets sweep the ocean, nations till the soil,

Genius be born and generations die,

Orient and Occident together toil,

Ere such a mighty work man rears on high!

Hearken, the feet of the Destroyer tread

The wine-press of the nations; fast the blood

Pours from the side of Europe; in the flood

On the septentrional watershed

The rivers of fair France are running red!

England, the mother-aerie of our brood,

That on the summit of dominion stood,

Shakes in the blast: heaven battles overhead!

Lift up thy head, O Rheims, of ages heir

That treasured up in thee their glorious sum;

Upon whose brow, prophetically fair,

Flamed the great morrow of the world to come;

Haunt with thy beauty this volcanic air

Ere yet thou close, O Flower of Christendom!

As when the shadow of the sun’s eclipse

Sweeps on the earth, and spreads a spectral air,

As if the universe were dying there,

On continent and isle the darkness dips

Unwonted gloom, and on the Atlantic slips;

So in the night the Belgian cities flare

Horizon-wide; the wandering people fare

Along the roads, and load the fleeing ships.

And westward borne that planetary sweep

Darkening o’er England and her times to be,

Already steps upon the ocean-deep!

Watch well, my country, that unearthly sea,

Lest when thou thinkest not, and in thy sleep,

Unapt for war, that gloom enshadow thee.

I pray for peace; yet peace is but a prayer.

How many wars have been in my brief years!

All races and all faiths, both hemispheres,

My eyes have seen embattled everywhere

The wide earth through; yet do I not despair

Of peace, that slowly through far ages nears;

Though not to me the golden morn appears,

My faith is perfect in time’s issue fair.

For man doth build on an eternal scale,

And his ideals are framed of hope deferred;

The millennium came not; yet Christ did not fail,

Though ever unaccomplished is His word;

Him Prince of Peace, though unenthroned, we hail,

Supreme when in all bosoms He be heard.

This is my faith, and my mind’s heritage,

Wherein I toil, though in a lonely place,

Who yet world-wide survey the human race

Unequal from wild nature disengage

Body and soul, and life’s old strife assuage;

Still must abide, till heaven perfect its grace,

And love grown wisdom sweeten in man’s face,

Alike the Christian and the heathen rage.

The tutelary genius of mankind

Ripens by slow degrees the final State,

That in the soul shall its foundations find

And only in victorious love grow great;

Patient the heart must be, humble the mind,

That doth the greater births of time await!

Whence not unmoved I see the nations form

From Dover to the fountains of the Rhine,

A hundred leagues, the scarlet battle-line,

And by the Vistula great armies swarm,

A vaster flood; rather my breast grows warm,

Seeing all peoples of the earth combine

Under one standard, with one countersign,

Grown brothers in the universal storm.

And never through the wide world yet there rang

A mightier summons! O Thou who from the side

Of Athens and the loins of Cæsar sprang,

Strike, Europe, with half the coming world allied

For those ideals for which, since Homer sang,

The hosts of thirty centuries have died.