Prose & Poetry - The Muse in Arms - The Spirit of Womanhood
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 eleven poems featured within the Loving and Living section of the collection.
You can access other poems within the section via the sidebar to the right.
The Spirit of Womanhood
by A. L. Jenkins
When as of old the Spartan mother sent
Her best beloved to the perilous field,
One charge she laid upon him ere he went:
"Return, my son, or with or on thy shield."
Even so we, with anguish unrevealed
By eyes o'er-bright and lips to laughter lent,
Sent forth our men to battle, nor would yield
To tears by pride's fierce barriers hardly pent.
So when they fight and all
the world goes red,
No memories athwart their souls shall come
That might unman them in the hour of need,
But such brave glances veiling hearts that bleed
As those old mothers turned upon their dead
On comrades' shoulders borne triumphant home.
Was it for this, dear God, that they were born,
These sons of ours, the beautiful and brave,
To fall far from us, leaving us forlorn,
Scarce knowing even if they found a grave?
It comforts not that cheerfully they gave
Their lives for England; nay, to us, outworn
With grief, it skills but that they could not save
Themselves in saving her from shame and scorn.
Cometh no answer from the
To us in darkness for our lost ones weeping;
Their place is empty, empty as our hearts,
Or as our prayers unheeded, nor departs
The instant anguish: we but hush our cries
Lest they should trouble our beloved sleeping.
Surely the bitterness of death is past,
Drained to the dregs the waters of despair,
Yea, pride on our beloved shall outlast
All poor desiring for the things that were.
The men we wedded and the sons we bare
Died valiantly and for the right stood fast:
Yet 'twas our blood that made them strong to dare,
Our hearts that in the battle-scale were cast.
Light of our eyes for all
the years to be,
Fruit of our dreams, our dearest selves fulfilled,
These have we laid as gifts on Freedom's altar
With blinding tears, yet all ungrudgingly;
Henceforth our high hearts shall not fail nor falter,
Though in them gladness be for ever stilled.
An Adrian Helmet was a French regulation helmet named after its designer.
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