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The Silk-Hat Soldier And Other Poems in War Time

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Our tears, our songs, our laurels—what are these  To thee in thy Gethsemane of loss,Stretched in thine unimagined agonies  On Hell's last engine of the Iron Cross.

For such a world as this that thou shouldst die  Is price too vast—yet, Belgium, hadst thou soldThyself, O then had fled from out the earth  Honour for ever, and left only Gold.

Nor diest thou—for soon shalt thou awake,  And, lifted high on our victorious shields,Watch the new sunrise driving for your sons  The hated German shadow from your fields.

“British colonists resident in London volunteer, and not even silk hats are doffed before training begins”

—New York Times


I saw him in a picture, and I felt I'd like to cry—    He stood in line,    The man “for mine,”A tall silk-hatted “guy”—    Right on the call,    Silk hat and all,He'd hurried to the cry—For he loves England well enough for England to die.

I've seen King Harry's helmet in the Abbey hanging high—    The one he wore    At Agincourt;But braver to my eye    That city toff    Too keen to doffHis stove-pipe—bless him—why?For he loves England well enough for England to die.

And other fellows in that line had come too on the fly,    Their joys and toys,    Brave English boys,For good and all put by;    O you brave best,    Teach all the restHow pure the heart and highWhen one loves England well enough for England to die.

One threw his cricket-bat aside, one left the ink to dry;    All peace and play    He's put away,And bid his love good-bye—    O mother mine!    O sweetheart mine!No man of yours am I—If I love not England well enough for England to die.

I guess it strikes a chill somewhere, the bravest won't deny,    All that you love,    Away to shove,And set your teeth to die;    But better dead,    When all is said,Than lapped in peace to lie—If we love not England well enough for England to die.


The Cry of the Little Peoples went up to God in vain;The Czech and the Pole, and the Finn, and the Schleswig Dane:

We ask but a little portion of the green, ambitious earth;Only to sow and sing and reap in the land of our birth.

We ask not coaling stations, nor ports in the China seas,We leave to the big child-nations such rivalries as these.

We have learned the lesson of Time, and we know three things of worth;Only to sow and sing and reap in the land of our birth.

O leave us little margins, waste ends of land and sea,A little grass, and a hill or two, and a shadowing tree;

O leave us our little rivers that sweetly catch the sky,To drive our mills, and to carry our wood, and to ripple by.

Once long ago, as you, with hollow pursuit of fame,We filled all the shaking world with the sound of our name,

But now are we glad to rest, our battles and boasting done,Glad just to sow and sing and reap in our share of the sun.

Of this O will ye rob us,—with a foolish mighty hand,Add with such cruel sorrow, so small a land to your land?

So might a boy rejoice him to conquer a hive of bees,Overcome ants in battle,—we are scarcely more mighty than these—

So might a cruel heart hear a nightingale singing alone,And say, “I am mighty! See how the singing stops with a stone!”

Yea, he were mighty indeed, mighty to crush and to gain;But the bee and the ant and the bird were the mighty of brain....