- There are five men in the moonlight
- That by their shadows stand;
- Three hobble humped on crutches,
- And two lack each a hand.
- Frogs somewhere near the roadside
- Chorus their chant absorbed:
- But a hush breathes out of the dream-light
- That far in heaven is orbed.
- It is gentle as sleep falling
- And wide as thought can span,
- The ancient peace and wonder
- That brims in the heart of man.
- Beyond the hills it shines now
- On no peace but the dead,
- On reek of trenches thunder-shocked,
- Tense fury of wills in wrestle locked,
- A chaos of crumbled red!
- The five men in the moonlight
- Chat, joke, or gaze apart.
- They talk of days and comrades,
- But each one hides his heart.
- They wear clean cap and tunic,
- As when they went to war;
- A gleam comes where the medal's pinned:
- But they will fight no more.
- The shadows, maimed and antic,
- Gesture and shape distort,
- Like mockery of a demon dumb
- Out of the hell-din whence they come
- That dogs them for his sport:
- But as if dead men were risen
- And stood before me there
- With a terrible fame about them blown
- In beams of spectral air,
- I see them, men transfigured
- As in a dream, dilate
- Fabulous with the Titan-throb
- Of battling Europe's fate;
- For history's hushed before them,
- And legend flames afresh, --
- Verdun, the name of thunder,
- Is written on their flesh.
- Three hundred thousand men, but not enough
- To break this township on a winding stream;
- More yet must fall, and more, ere the red stuff
- That built a nation's manhood may redeem
- The Master's hopes and realize his dream.
- They pave the way to Verdun; on their dust
- The Hohenzollerns mount and, hand in hand,
- Gaze haggard south; for yet another thrust
- And higher hills must heap, ere they may stand
- To feed their eyes upon the promised land.
- One barrow, borne of women, lifts them high,
- Built up of many a thousand human dead.
- Nursed on their mothers' bosoms, now they lie --
- A Golgotha, all shattered, torn and sped,
- A mountain for these royal feet to tread.
- A Golgotha, upon whose carrion clay
- Justice of myriad men still in the womb
- Shall heave two crosses; crucify and flay
- Two memories accurs'd; then in the tomb
- Of world-wide execration give them room.
- Verdun! a clarion thy name shall ring
- Adown the ages and the Nations see
- Thy monuments of glory. Now we bring
- Thank-offering and bend the reverent knee,
- Thou star upon the crown of Liberty!
- Guns of Verdun point to Metz
- From the plated parapets;
- Guns of Metz grin back again
- O'er the fields of fair Lorraine.
- Guns of Metz are long and grey,
- Growling through a summer day;
- Guns of Verdun, grey and long,
- Boom an echo of their song.
- Guns of Metz to Verdun roar,
- "Sisters, you shall foot the score;"
- Guns of Verdun say to Metz
- "Fear not, for we pay our debts."
- Guns of Metz they grumble, "When?"
- Guns of Verdun answer then,
- "Sisters, when to guard Lorraine
- Gunners lay you East again!"