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Herbert Asquith

The Charioteer

(TO A CHILD)

LOVE be thy charioteer:
In all thy brightening and thy darkening hours
May he be at thine ear;
So shalt thou sail at ease above the tow'rs,
Where pale Ambition, in his clouded hood,
Climbs, step by step, the stair;
And Beauty, dancing in the roadside flow'rs,
Or resting in her mountain quietude,
Tresses a-wander on the sunlit air,
Shall meet thee everywhere.
Then the fast-withered leaves of poor Caprice
Shall live again; and she be happy yet.
Freed from the tangle of her glittering net:
And Poverty no longer want for alms,
And everything be blessed,
Save fevered Avarice,
With his discoloured palms,
And talons prisoned in his own gray breast.

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The Fallen Subaltern

The starshells float above, the bayonets glisten;
We bear our fallen friend without a sound;
Below the waiting legions lie and listen
To us, who march upon their burial-ground.

Wound in the flag of England, here we lay him;
The guns will flash and thunder o’er the grave;
What other winding sheet should now array him,
What other music should salute the brave?

As goes the Sun-god in his chariot glorious,
When all his golden banners are unfurled,
So goes the soldier, fallen but victorious,
And leaves behind a twilight in the world.

And those who come this way, in days hereafter,
Will know that here a boy for England fell,
Who looked at danger with the eyes of laughter,
And on the charge his days were ended well.

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After the Salvo

UP and down, up and down
They go, the gray rat, and the brown.
The telegraph lines are tangled hair,
Motionless on the sullen air
An engine has fallen on its back,
With crazy wheels, on a twisted track
All ground to dust is the little town.
Up and down, up and down
They go, the gray rat, and the brown
A skull, torn out of the graves near by,
Gapes in the grass. A butterfly,
In azure irridescence new,
Floats into the world, across the dew
Between the flow'rs. Have we lost our way,
Or are we toys of a god at play,
Who do these things on a young Spring day?

Where the salvo fell, on a splintered ledge
Of ruin, at the crater's edge,
A poppy lives: and young, and fair,

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To a Baby Found Paddling Near the Thames

Hail! O Baby of the May
In the bubbling river-bed,
Playing where the cannon play,
With the shrapnel overhead!
Sparkling in and flashing out
Through the eddies and the shallows,
With your feet among the trout,
And your head among the swallows;
While your wag-tails on the daisies
Lead you in the minuet,
Twinkling through the flow'ry mazes,
Baby, do you quite forget
That, with shrapnel overhead,
Other babes are put to bed?
Baby, may the buttercup,
When you tumble, pick you up;
If you fall beside the willow,
Lilies rise to be your pillow!
In the winter should you go
Straying far without a rest,

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Venice

IN domes of dim and ancient gold,
In cloisters, where the lightning plays,
Where gleam the gorgeous saints of old
In aisles of jade and chrysoprase,
In halls that wave like waving water,
Still moves the voice of Ocean's daughter.

Venice ! What siren music then
Stirred on the shoals and shallow sea,
When that small band of wandering men
First in their dreams imagined thee,
And hung thy lyric splendour high
Between the water and the sky!

What Triton strains in other days
Were heard, when, on a sea of flame,
Thy battlefleet swung through the haze,
And homeward in her glory came,
Bearing the beauty of the East
To make Thy happy saint a feast.

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The Western

THOR draws a chord invisible
Across the shaking sky:
I hear the tearing of the shell,
The bullets sing and cry,
As, charging through the flames of hell,
The batteries go by.

The gunners laugh about the task,
That man to man has given:
Like Titans, now the guns unmask,
And fire the veils of heaven.
Above the cloud what lights are gleaming?
God's batteries are those,
Or souls of soldiers, homeward streaming
To banquet with their foes?
The floods of battle ebb and flow,
The soldiers to Valhalla go!

They say that, when the day awoke,
And the dying night was wan,

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Ares God of War

UNDER the stars the armies lie asleep:
Between the lines a quiet river flows
Through brakes of honeysuckle, and of rose,
And fields where poppies droop in languor deep:
The night as with a mantle now enfolds
The muffled forms upon the pasture low;
The scent of thyme comes down across the wolds,
And on the roses of the dark hedgerow
The summer starlight falls in flakes of silver snow.

Here, from the wooded haunt of nymph and fawn,
The hidden guns peer forth across the hills,
Their wheels are on the trampled daffodils,
And so they wait the coming of the dawn.
In dappled shadows, where the fairy weaves
On grasses tall his web of sparkling lace,
The gunners lie, their heads upon the sheaves:
White falls the moon on many a sunburnt face,
That ere the day shall feel another God's embrace.

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