Anniversary of the Great Retreat (1915)
Isabel C Clarke
Now a whole year has waxed and waned and whitened
Over the mounds that marked the grim advance;
The winter snows have lain, the spring flowers brightened,
On those beloved graves of Northern France.
Caudry, Le Cateau. Landrecies, are written
In our sad hearts with letters of flame,
Where our young dead still lie, untimely smitten,
In graves still unredeemed that bear no name.
And those who saw them spoke of the ‘boy-faces’
The English soldiers wore; they heard them sing
As they went forth to their appointed places,
Who when night fell lay unremembering….
O England, sing their fame in songs and story,
Who knew Death’s victory not Life’s defeat;
By their names written on thy roll of glory,
Who fought and perished in the Great Retreat!
These held they high tradition in their keeping
This flower of all a nations’ youth and pride
And safe they hold it still in their last sleeping;
They heard thy call and answered it and died…
And by those graves that mark their proud surrender
In days to come each one that lingereth
Shall sadly think of all their vanished splendour,
‘Contemptible’. But faithful unto death.
So we press forward, step by step redeeming
Each hallowed spot our dead have sanctified,
That we may whisper to them in their dreaming.
The Victory is ours because you died….