The Reveille of Romance…

The Reveille of Romance.

(Written in early October, 1914, in mid-
ocean, on board H.M. Troopship “Megantic,”
of the fleet bearing the first contingent of the
Canadian Expeditionary Force to England.)

Regret no more the age of arms,
Nor sigh “Romance is dead,”
Out of life’s dull and dreary maze
Romance has raised her head.

Now at her golden clarion call
The sword salutes the sun;
The bayonet glitters from its sheath
To deck the deadly gun;

The tramp of horse is heard afar
And down the autumn wind
The shrapnel shrieks of sudden doom
To which brave eyes are blind.

From East and West and South and North,
The hosts are crowding still;
The long rails hum as troop-trains come
By valley, plain and hill;

And whence came yearly argosies
Laden with silks and corn,
Vast fleets of countless armed men
O’er the broad seas are borne.

All come to that gay festival
Of rifle, lance and sword,
Where toasts are pledged in red heart’s blood
And Death sits at the board.

Now Briton, Gaul and Slav and Serb
Clash with the Goth and Hun
Upon grim fields where whoso yields
Romance, at least, has won.

Though warriors fall like frosted leaves
Before November winds,
They only lose what all must lose,
But find what none else finds.

Their bodies lie beside the way,
In trench, by barricade,
Discarded by the Titan will
That shatters what it made.

Poor empty sheaths, they mark the course
Of spirits bold as young:
Whatever checked that fiery charge
As dust to dust was flung.

For terrible it is slay
And bitter to be slain,
But joy it is to crown the soul
In its heroic reign.

And better far to make or mar,
Godlike, for but a day,
Than pace the sluggard’s slavish round
In life-long, mean decay.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Who sighs then for the golden age?
Romance has raised her head,
And in the sad and somber days
Walks proudly o’er your dead.

Peregrine Acland.
(Lieut. 48th Highlanders).

—-

The Reville of Romance was published on at least three separate occasions: in the Toronto Globe on Saturday February 27th, 1915, page 6; in a privately printed pamphlet, and in Pearson’s Magazine in October, 1918.

The pamphlet printing is a lovely, delicate little thing, bound with what appears to be light blue yarn.  There are six printed pages (eight in total) with no publishing information.
I’ve been searching for a copy for a long while, and none of the book dealers I’m in touch with have ever even seen a copy.  W. Redvers Dent’s Show Me Death! is supposedly an extremely rare book in Canada (I have two copies, and the more expensive one was $30.oo) but I suspect this was printed in such a small run that it makes Dent’s novel appear as commonly available as Whirlwind in comparison.  If you have a copy… please get in touch.

In the mean time, the wonderful people at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Room at the University of Toronto have put up a high quality scan on their website, where the images above originated from.  You can take a peek at it here.  There are slight differences between this version of the poem and the one published in the Globe (which I typed out above).  Most of the differences have to do with accents (there are none in the Globe version), while the Globe capitalizes ‘Titan’ in stanza nine, the pamphlet version does not.  But the pamphlet does capitalize ‘Will’ in the same stanza, and ‘Golden Age’ in the final one.

To see the Globe version as it appeared in 1915, try here: The Globe 1915 – 02 February 27th – Saturday p.06

The version that appeared in Pearson’s Magazine in October 1918 was radically revised in 1917, and so I will include it, and another Acland poem from the period, in another post.

What with all that “East and West and South and North” I think I’ll have to pour a Scotch and settle down with Macaulay’s Horatius this evening.

 

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