Sydney Thompson Dobell

(1824-1874 / England)

In War-Time A Psalm Of The Heart - Poem by Sydney Thompson Dobell

Scourge us as Thou wilt, oh Lord God of Hosts;
Deal with us, Lord, according to our transgressions;
But give us Victory!
Victory, victory! oh, Lord, victory!
Oh, Lord, victory! Lord, Lord, victory!


Lift Thy wrath up from the day of battle,
And set it on the weight of other days!
Draw Thy strength from us for many days,
So Thou be with us on the day of battle,
And give us victory.
Victory, victory! oh, Lord, victory!
Oh, Lord, victory! Lord, Lord, victory!


Let the strong arm be as the flag o' the river,
The withered flag that flappeth o'er the river,
When all the flood is dried out of the river;


Let the brave heart be as a drunkard's bosom,
When the thick fume is frozen in the bosom,
And the bare sin lies shivering in the bosom;


Let the bold eye be sick and crazed with midnight,
Strained and cracked with aching days of midnight,
Swarmed and foul with creeping shapes of midnight;


So Thou return upon the day of battle,
So we be strong upon the day of battle,
Be drunk with Thee upon the day of battle,
So Thou shine o'er us in the day of battle,
Shine in the faces of our enemies,
Hot in the faces of our enemies,
Hot o'er the battle and the victory.
Victory, victory! oh, Lord, victory!
Oh, Lord, victory! Lord, Lord, victory!


Shame us not, oh Lord, before the wicked!
In our hidden places let Thy wrath
Afflict us; in the secret of our sin
Convince us; be the bones within our flesh
Marrowed with fire, and all the strings of life
Strung to the twang of torture; let the stench
Of our own strength torment us; the desire
Of our own glorious image in the sea
Consume us; shake the darkness like a tree,
And fill the night with mischiefs,-blights and dwales,
Weevils, and rots, and cankers! But, oh Lord,
Humble us not upon the day of battle,
Hide not Thy face upon the day of battle,
Let it shine o'er us on the day of battle,
Shine in the faces of our enemies,
Hot in the faces of our enemies,
Hot o'er the battle and the victory!
Victory, victory! oh, Lord, victory!
Oh, Lord, victory! Lord, Lord, victory!


Tho' Thou shouldst glorify us above measure,
Yet will we not forget that Thou art God!
Honour our land, oh Lord! honour our land!


Be Thou her armour in the day of battle,
Whereon the sword of man shall strike in vain!
For Thou canst find the place and leave no scar,
Sting of bee, nor fairy-spot nor mole,
Yet kill the germ within the core of life.


Oh lead her in the glory of her beauty,
So that the nations wonder at her beauty!
For Thou canst take her beauty by the heart
And throw the spout of sorrow from the fountain,
The flood of sorrow thro' the veins of joy.


Let her soul look out of her eyes of glory,
Lighten, oh Lord, fron awful eyes of glory!
For Thou canst touch the soul upon its throne,
The fortressed soul upon its guarded throne,
Nor scorch the sweet air of the populous splendour
That comes and goes about a leprous king.
Therefore fear not to bless us, oh Lord God!
And give us victory!
Victory, victory! oh, Lord, victory!
Oh, Lord, victory! Lord, Lord, victory!


Sight of home, if Thou wilt; kiss of love,
If Thou wilt; children at the knees of peace,
If Thou wilt; parents weeping in the door
Of welcome, if Thou wilt; but victory,
Victory, victory! oh, Lord, victory!
Oh, Lord, victory! Lord, Lord, victory!


Pangs if Thou wilt, oh Lord! Death if Thou wilt!
Labour and famine, frost and fire and storm,
Silent plague, and hurricane of battle,
The field-grave, and the wolf-grave, and the sea!
But victory, victory! oh, Lord, victory!
Oh, Lord, victory! Lord, Lord, victory!


Consider, Lord, the oppressions of the oppressor,
And give us victory!
The tyrant sitteth on his golden throne
In palaces of silver, to his gates
The meeting winds blow good from all the world.
Who hath undone the mountain where he locks
His treasure? In the armoury of hell
Which engine is not his? His name infects
The air of every zone, and to each tongue
From Hecla to the Ganges adds a word
That kills all terms of pride. His servants sit
In empires round his empire; and outspread
As land beneath the water, oh, my God,
His kingdoms bear the half of all Thy stars!
Who hath out-told his princes? Who hath summed
His captains? From the number of his hosts
He should forget a nation and not lack!
Therefore, oh Lord God, give us victory!


The serf is in his hut; the unsacred sire
Who can beget no honour. Lo his mate
Dim thro' the reeking garlic-she whose womb
Doth shape his ignorant shame, and whose young slave
In some far field thickens a knouted hide
For baser generations. Their dull eyes
Are choked with feudal welfare; their rank limbs
Steam in the stye of plenty; their rude tongues,
That fill the belly from the common trough,
Discharge in gobbets of as gross a speech
That other maw the heart. Nor doth the boor
Refuse his owner's chattel tho' she breed
The rich man's increase, nor doth she disdain
The joyless usage of such limbs as toil
Yoked with the nobler ox, and take as mute
A beast's infliction; at her stolid side
The girl that shall be such a thing as she,
Suckles the babe she would not, with the milk
A bondmaid owes her master. Lord, Thou seest!
Therefore, oh Lord God, give us victory!


The captive straineth at the dungeon-grate.
Behold, oh Lord, the secret of the rock,
The dungeon, and the captive, and the chain!
Tho' it be hidden under forest leaves,
Tho' it be on the mountains among clouds,
Tho' they point to it as a crag o' the hill,
And say concerning it that the wind waileth,
Thou knowest the inner secret and the sin!
I see his white face at the dungeon bars,
As snow between the bars of winter trees.
He sinketh down upon the dungeon stones,
His white face making light within the dungeon,
The claspèd whiteness of his praying hands
Flickering a little light within the dungeon.
And thro' the darkness, thro' the cavern darkness,
Like to a runnel in a savage wood,
Sweet thro' the horror of the hollow dark
He sings the song of home in the strange land.


How long, oh Lord of thunder? Victory!
Lord God of vengeance, give us victory!
Victory, victory! oh, Lord, victory!
Oh, Lord, victory! Lord, Lord, victory!


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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