Prose & Poetry - The Muse in Arms - A Dream of New College: to a College Comrade

"A Dream of New College: to a College Comrade" by Alexander Robertson First published in London in November 1917 and reprinted in February 1918 The Muse in Arms comprised, in the words of editor E. B. Osborne:

"A collection of war poems, for the most part written in the field of action, by seamen, soldiers, and flying men who are serving, or have served, in the Great War".

Below is one of eight poems featured within the School and College section of the collection.

You can access other poems within the section via the sidebar to the right.

A Dream of New College: to a College Comrade
by Alexander Robertson

In dream I saw the men whom once I knew,
Whom in the by-gone year the Teuton slew,
Or Turk or Bulgar - those who sacrificed
Their lives and all for which their lives they prized -
And they were met as in the happier time
Before the first act of imperial crime,
Within a College garden in the shade
Of what was once a rampart undecayed.
They saw me not : and all were silent; each
Seemed lost in pondering too deep for speech,
As if, though undisdainful, they had nought
To utter for the modes of human thought,
And yet perchance they thought as one would fain
Imagine that they thought, returned again
To find the sacredness of quiet hours
And beauty, time-unravaged, near these towers.
Into the still quadrangle, as one is fain
To bear a cherished poem in the brain,
And music and great phrases that are dear.
Or one might pause - though 'twere not wise - to hear
The old clock's tireless ticking (I have known
Into a terror grow that monotone
Incessant, threatening, like the unchanging tune,
Learnt long ago, an idiot will croon,
Or, to a murderer, dazed, the judge's slow
Announcing of his near and ultimate woe):
The soul would wake to sadness and the moan
(As of a wind when woods are overthrown)
Of our great lamentation; and the mind
Remember those who nevermore may find
This quietude, or, borne upon the blast
Of death, the frontiers of the world have passed.
So the unopened door, the empty chair,
The half-filled ledger, and the table bare
Of books and paper, sad and strange would seem
To one thus hearkening in the sunlight's gleam,
As to the priests of Rome both strange and sad
Would seem the unsought temple, when the glad
Tidings of joy found welcome and men turned
To those whom beasts had torn or flames had burned.
In truth, they seem contented to have died
In combat against Power deified,
Glad that the men of future days might see
Inviolate this beauty's sanctity.
As if this College with the gardens old
An emblem of all beauty they did hold,
Created or to be, if but the soul
Of England shall escape a cursed control.
But at the waking hour I knew that all
Was but the mind's creation at the call
Of pent-up longings: yet I saw for long
That vision sweet as hymn of evensong.
I knew they sought not that, their duty done,
We should have sorrow beyond guerison,
And yet I felt an anguish of regret
To have imagined only that they met.

'Whippet' was a term used to describe any light tank.

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