Friday, September 23, 2016

THE COMRADE, a poem

(Among the soldiers of France there is a widespread and touching belief that at Nancy, Soissons, Ypres and in the Argonne a Form in White has passed unharmed through shot and shell, comforting the wounded and the dying.)
WHO is this in raiment white
     Walks across the field,
Midst the terrors of the fight
     Bears nor sword nor shield,
Stays the dying to defend,
Where can come no other friend.

Who is this of whom they tell,
     Beautiful and grave,
As from Heaven, to this Hell
     Come the hurt to save?—
Bearing them with tenderness,
Where can follow no distress?

Who is this that lifts them up
     As they earthward sink,
Bids them, thirsting, from his cup
     Euthanasia drink,
Opens to their closing eyes
Healing visions of the skies?  * * *

Is it the supreme Desire,
     Answering their need?—
Is it Faith that doth aspire,
     Lifting them, indeed,
Up, beyond all human strife,
To its own immortal life?

Is it Hope, the deathless one,
     To their broken hearts
Whispering of joys begun,
     E'en as life departs;
Hope, the gift of memories
Garnered at the mother's knees?

Is it, Friend and Healer, Thou—
     Vision pure and pale—
Whom men, sorrowing, look on now,
     As they saw the Grail?—
Is it Thou their yearnings greet,
Unimaginably sweet?

On the blood-stained fields of France
     What the dying view
Who can tell? All, all, perchance!
     But this much is true:
There wherever pain has trod
Comes the pitying love of God!
"The Comrade" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Washington Herald (Washington, DC), 14 June 1918.

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