Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

The Song Of The Pacifist


What do they matter, our headlong hates, when we take the toll of our Dead?
Think ye our glory and gain will pay for the torrent of blood we have shed?
By the cheers of our Victory will the heart of the mother be comforted?

If by the Victory all we mean is a broken and brooding foe;
Is the pomp and power of a glitt'ring hour, and a truce for an age or so:
By the clay-cold hand on the broken blade we have smitten a bootless blow!

If by the Triumph we only prove that the sword we sheathe is bright;
That justice and truth and love endure; that freedom's throned on the height;
That the feebler folks shall be unafraid; that Might shall never be Right;

If this be all: by the blood-drenched plains, by the havoc of fire and fear,
By the rending roar of the War of Wars, by the Dead so doubly dear. . . .
Then our Victory is a vast defeat, and it mocks us as we cheer.

Victory! there can be but one, hallowed in every land:
When by the graves of our common dead we who were foemen stand;
And in the hush of our common grief hand is tendered to hand.

Triumph! Yes, when out of the dust in the splendour of their release
The spirits of those who fell go forth and they hallow our hearts to peace,
And, brothers in pain, with world-wide voice, we clamour that War shall cease.

Glory! Ay, when from blackest loss shall be born most radiant gain;
When over the gory fields shall rise a star that never shall wane:
Then, and then only, our Dead shall know that they have not fall'n in vain.

When our children's children shall talk of War as a madness that may not be;
When we thank our God for our grief to-day, and blazon from sea to sea
In the name of the Dead the banner of Peace . . . that will be Victory.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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