The Burning Marl

The Dirge

January, 1918

J. Le Gay Brereton

OUT of the pregnant darkness, where from fire
    To glimmering fire the watchword leaps,
The dirge floats up from those who build the pyre
High and still higher
    That yet shall blaze across the verminous deeps.

        Farewell, O brother-heart,
            Yet we shall not forget;
        Though hand from hand must part,
            Your hope is with us yet.
        The clank of the swaggerer’s sword
            And clink of the grasper’s gold
        Are not so loud as the lover’s word
            In a thousand echoes rolled.

The lords of the tottering order sit and plot,
    With cunning courtesy haggling still:
The insistent chorus cannot be forgot—
Its words are shot
    Like summoning rockets from the eastern hill.

        You, it was you who showed
                How Murder made his pact
        In busy Greed’s abode,
                Preparing for the act.
        To save the fatherland
                They bade your comrades die,
        And full in their path you took your stand
                To kill the patriot lie.

Now, lest their flags and bags be lost in flame.
    The desperate pair have summoned those
Whose love is moderate and whose life is tame
To quench in shame
    The light that streams where wind of warning blows.

        The ranks of freedom swell,
                The flag of love rolls out:
        The efficient ranks of hell
                Close up in deadly doubt.
        Moulded in battle’s mire,
                The bullet found its mark;
        A living spirit, winged with fire,
                Flares homeward from the dark.

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