The Reveille of Romance
(Written on the way to England, October, 1914;
revised during convalescence in Canada, June, 1917.)
Regret no more our sensual sloth nor say Romance is dead;
Bright-helmed against the oppressive night Romance has raised her head.
Cease sighing for gay tournaments of lion-hearted strife;
Romance has blown her clarion and the age has leaped to life.
Now, as her trumpet’s thundering roll re-echoes round the world,
Beneath the pale and dying stars, hate’s challenges are hurled.
The legions line up rank on rank, the flashing steel is drawn,
The bayonet gleams its icy threat, the sword salutes the dawn.
Through the four corners of the earth reverberate war’s alarms,
And youth’s light-jesting brotherhood walks to the clank of arms;
The bugle’s cry shrills in the sky and wakes the throbbing drum
To match the beat of marching feet against the troop-train’s hum.
The hurried tramp of gathering horse shakes every sun-baked road
And from flowered hedge or vine-clad house where lovers late abode,
The long black throats of bellowing guns belch down the autumn wind
The shells that wail and shreik of doom to which brave eyes are blind.
Where Northern Lights or Southern Cross illumine seven seas
Whose waves’ white crests had washed the breasts of countless argosies
Laden with spoil of every soil, with silks and corn and wine, —
To-day, with warrior bristling decks, armadas wheel in line.
All come to that gay festival of rifle, lance, and sword
Where toasts are pledged in hot heart’s blood and Death sits at the board;
For laughing love dreams its delight on lawns of asphodel,
But when the world makes holiday it seeks the courts of Hell.
Now Cossack, Briton, Gaul and Serb clash with the Goth and Hun
Upon grim fields where whoso yields Romance at least has won:
For, amidst all the dying there, the battle-flame and thunder
Herald rebirth of Joy-in-Life, the Renaissance of Wonder.
Though warriors fall like frosted leaves before October winds
They only lose what all must love, but find what none else finds
Save those proud souls that strive to soar beyond their mortal bars
And brooding on Olympian heights are fellows to the stars.
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 to 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 sombre days walks proudly o’er the dead,
–But had we served her loyally through all the vanished years
We might have had the cup of joy without the price of tears.
From Pearson’s Magazine, edited by Frank Harris. October 1918. Pages 329-30.