Impressions, June, 1918
I. The Question
- The red sun just seen through mists curling up from dark little
- Fairy fields, gray green, blue green, opalescent in their enshrouding
- Pivoting always upon the onrushing train as a center and sliding
- out of sight,
- Hurrying to hide their mystic beauty___the promised bread of the
- Country folk early risen___fathers, mothers, and little children with
- sleep still in their eyes,
- All borne by the onrushing train to the place of their desire___the
- soldiers' encampment.
- A woman all in black whose fingers pray,
And a woman all in black whose fingers knit;
But chiefly a young priest in khaki,
His leather leggings trim, the gold bar on his squared shoulders, on
his trim collar the cross of gold.
- In his veins runs full the blood of those to whom St. Columba
brought the Book;
- On his knee rests the Book, with its cross of gold, its ribbons of red
- and green and purple.
- He turns its pages.
Behind him sit young human beings, lads in khaki, going to their
- all but certain death.
- Held as in a vise they are by the unaccountable order of things;
- Yet they go freely___though with a wistful questioning in the deeps
- of their calm eyes.
- The question was already old, old in the days long gone, when St.
- Columba brought the Book.
- It was already old when the Book was new.
Yet it has come afresh, or will come to each of these in the onrush-
- ing train___
- To those set together in families; to the woman in black, set apart
But chiefly to the lads in khaki, young human creatures upon whom
- in the fulness of life and in the fulness of Earth's
- The unaccountable order of things has all at once closed in.
- If a man die, shall he live again?
What answer, young priest in khaki?
II. Barbed Wire
- Who devised you, thing of ugliness?
First I knew you
Marking off the free sweep of the prairies
With your hateful jagged lines.
An interloper you seemed, harsh and hard, above their waving
- A foe to cattle and horses,
Taking them unaware in their play or in their fright.
Devilish in cunning to prick and goad them on,
Cutting and tearing ever deeper, the more they struggled against
- Now I know you in lands afar
Drawing your sharp length and setting your notched teeth against
- the flesh of men.
- Is it not enough ?
When will you cease to torture?
You devised me, O human heart,
Sinning against the free sweep of the prairies.
And now you turn me against human flesh.
How long, do you ask?
Nay, you only can answer.