The Burning Marl

Hymn to the God of War

J. Le Gay Brereton

            FROM every quarter we,
            Who bent the trembling knee
And cowered or grovelled prostrate day and night,
            Now come once more to sing
            A dirge before thee, King,
Once more with earnest heart to do thee right.

            Have we not hailed thee God?
            Our weary feet have trod
The vasty barren sands and treacherous ice,
            With many a bitter cry,
            To pile thine altar high
With pallid human hearts in sacrifice.

            We hated thee and came
            With eyes of shifty shame,
With heavy steel above the craven breast,
            Yet evermore we did
            The ill thy servants bid,
For everywhere thy might was manifest.

            At thy sibilant word
            We were filled with distrust,
            And we glared on each other,
            All horribly stirred
            Against sister and brother;
Our green hopes were wilted and riven, our red-running blood was as dust.

            And a foul poison ran
            Through the veins of the world,
            And we waited and wondered.
            By magical ban
            We were cruelly sundered,
Then a maniac hatred upcaught us and deep into hell we were hurled.

            We have crept to thee, God,
            In the day of thy wrath,
            We have wept, we have fasted,
            We have crimsoned the sod
            That thy worship has blasted,
And have seen thee stalk pale and triumphant where nations fell flat in thy path.

            Yet out of the dust and the flame,
            The squalor and muddle of crime,
            A red waving blossom there came
            And a scent on the tempest of time.
            Heroic and splendid, we threw
            Our lives to be oil in the fire,
            But a marvel of fellowship grew
            As the blaze bickered broader and higher,
And the soul of a people stood up, and spoke to us all from the pyre.

            And lo, we are come to thy shrine,
            O God, but we ask for no grace,
            For our hearts are made glad with a wine
            That is death to the craven and base,
            And thy shrine shall be burnt for our mirth
            And thine altar be turned to thy bier,
            For, if Love be our Lord upon earth,
            What corner is left for thee here?
The veil of thy temple is rent—and behold, thou hast vanished, O Fear!

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