The Years Between

The Years Between

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THE ROWERS

1902

(When Germany proposed that England should help her in a naval demonstration to collect debts from Venezuela.)

The banked oars fell an hundred strong,And backed and threshed and ground,But bitter was the rowers' songAs they brought the war-boat round. They had no heart for the rally and roarThat makes the whale-bath smoke—When the great blades cleave and hold and leaveAs one on the racing stroke. They sang:—'What reckoning do you keep,And steer her by what star,If we come unscathed from the Southern deepTo be wrecked on a Baltic bar? 'Last night you swore our voyage was done,But seaward still we go,And you tell us now of a secret vowYou have made with an open foe! 'That we must lie off a lightless coastAnd haul and back and veer,At the will of the breed that have wronged us mostFor a year and a year and a year! 'There was never a shame in ChristendieThey laid not to our door—And you say we must take the winter seaAnd sail with them once more? 'Look South! The gale is scarce o'erpastThat stripped and laid us down,When we stood forth but they stood fastAnd prayed to see us drown 'Our dead they mocked are scarcely cold,Our wounds are bleeding yet—And you tell us now that our strength is soldTo help them press for a debt' ''Neath all the flags of all mankindThat use upon the seas,Was there no other fleet to findThat you strike hands with these? 'Of evil times that men can chooseOn evil fate to fall,What brooding Judgment let you looseTo pick the worst of all? 'In sight of peace—from the Narrow SeasO'er half the world to run—With a cheated crew, to league anewWith the Goth and the shameless Hun!'
THE VETERANS

[Written for the gathering of survivors of the Indian Mutiny, Albert Hall, 1907.]

To-day, across our fathers' graves,The astonished years revealThe remnant of that desperate hostWhich cleansed our East with steel. Hail and farewell! We greet you here,With tears that none will scorn—O Keepers of the House of old,Or ever we were born! One service more we dare to ask—Pray for us, heroes, pray,That when Fate lays on us our taskWe do not shame the Day!
THE DECLARATION OF LONDON

JUNE 29, 1911

('On the re-assembling of Parliament after the Coronation, the Government have no intention of allowing their followers to vote according to their convictions on the Declaration of London, but insist on a strictly party vote'—Daily Papers.)

We were all one heart and one raceWhen the Abbey trumpets blew.For a moment's breathing-spaceWe had forgotten youNow you return to your honoured placePanting to shame us anew. We have walked with the Ages dead—With our Past alive and ablaze,And you bid us pawn our honour for bread;This day of all the days!And you cannot wait till our guests are sped,Or last week's wreath decays? The light is still in our eyesOf Faith and Gentlehood,Of Service and Sacrifice,And it does not match our mood,To turn so soon to your treacheriesThat starve our land of her food. Our ears still carry the soundOf our once Imperial seas,Exultant after our King was crowned,Beneath the sun and the breeze.It is too early to have them boundOr sold at your decrees. Wait till the memory goes,Wait till the visions fade,We may betray in time, God knows,But we would not have it said,When you make report to our scornful foes,That we kissed as we betrayed!
ULSTER

1912

('Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works; their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.'—Isaiah lix 6)

The dark eleventh hourDraws on and sees us soldTo every evil powerWe fought against of old....