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A Father of Women and other poems

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Ad Sororem E. B.

“Thy father was transfused into thy blood.”

Dryden: Ode to Mrs. Anne Killigrew.

      Our father works in us,The daughters of his manhood.  Not undoneIs he, not wasted, though transmuted thus,      And though he left no son.

      Therefore on him I cryTo arm me: “For my delicate mind a casque,A breastplate for my heart, courage to die,      Of thee, captain, I ask.

      “Nor strengthen only; pressA finger on this violent blood and pale,Over this rash will let thy tenderness      A while pause, and prevail.

      “And shepherd-father, thouWhose staff folded my thoughts before my birth,Control them now I am of earth, and now      Thou art no more of earth.

      “O liberal, constant, dear!Crush in my nature the ungenerous artOf the inferior; set me high, and here,      Here garner up thy heart.”

      Like to him now are they,The million living fathers of the War—Mourning the crippled world, the bitter day—      Whose striplings are no more.

      The crippled world!  Come then,Fathers of women with your honour in trust;Approve, accept, know them daughters of men,      Now that your sons are dust.

LENGTH OF DAYSto the early dead in battle

      There is no length of daysBut yours, boys who were children once.  Of oldThe past beset you in your childish ways,      With sense of Time untold!

      What have you then forgone?A history?  This you had.  Or memories?These, too, you had of your far-distant dawn.      No further dawn seems his,

      The old man who shares with you,But has no more, no more.  Time’s mysteryDid once for him the most that it can do:      He has had infancy.

      And all his dreams, and allHis loves for mighty Nature, sweet and few,Are but the dwindling past he can recall      Of what his childhood knew.

      He counts not any moreHis brief, his present years.  But O he knowsHow far apart the summers were of yore,      How far apart the snows.

      Therefore be satisfied;Long life is in your treasury ere you fall;Yes, and first love, like Dante’s.  O a bride      For ever mystical!

      Irrevocable good,—You dead, and now about, so young, to die,—Your childhood was; there Space, there Multitude,      There dwelt Antiquity.


Two o’clock, the morning of October 12th, 1915.

      To her accustomed eyesThe midnight-morning brought not such a dreadAs thrills the chance-awakened head that liesIn trivial sleep on the habitual bed.

      ’Twas yet some hours ere light;And many, many, many a break of dayHad she outwatched the dying; but this nightShortened her vigil was, briefer the way.

      By dial of the clock’Twas day in the dark above her lonely head.“This day thou shalt be with Me.”  Ere the cockAnnounced that day she met the Immortal Dead.


On London fell a clearer light;   Caressing pencils of the sunDefined the distances, the white   Houses transfigured one by one,The “long, unlovely street” impearled.O what a sky has walked the world!

Most happy year!  And out of town   The hay was prosperous, and the wheat;The silken harvest climbed the down;   Moon after moon was heavenly-sweetStroking the bread within the sheaves,Looking twixt apples and their leaves.

And while this rose made round her cup,   The armies died convulsed.  And whenThis chaste young silver sun went up   Softly, a thousand shattered men,One wet corruption, heaped the plain,After a league-long throb of pain.

Flower following tender flower; and birds,   And berries; and benignant skiesMade thrive the serried flocks and herds.—   Yonder are men shot through the eyes....