Sunlight Poem by Henry Herbert Knibbs


Rating: 2.7

Sunlight, a colt from the ranges, glossy and gentle and strong,
Dazed by the multiple thunder of wheels and the thrust of the sea,
Fretted and chafed at the changes—ah, but the journey was long!
Officer's charger—a wonder—pick of the stables was he.

Flutter of flags in the harbor; rumble of guns in the street;
England! and rhythm of marching; mist and the swing of the tide;
France and an Oriflamme arbor of lilies that drooped in the heat;
Sunlight, with mighty neck arching, flecked with the foam of his pride!

Out from the trenches retreating, weary and grimy and worn,
Lean little men paused to cheer him, turning to pass to their rest;
Shrilled him a pitiful greeting, mocking the promise of morn
With hope and wild laughter to hear him answer with challenging zest.

Victory! That was the spirit! Once they had answered the thrill;
Toiled at the guns while incessant sang that invisible, dread
Burden of death. Ah, to hear it, merciless, animate, shrill,
Whining aloft in a crescent, shattering living and dead!

And Sunlight? What knew he of battle? Strange was this turmoil and haste.
Why should he flinch at the firing; swerve at the mangled and slain?
Where was the range and the cattle? Here was but carnage and waste;
Yet with a patience untiring he answered to spur and to rein.

Answered, when, out of disorder, rout, and the chaos of night,
Came the command to his master, 'Cover the Seventh's retreat!'
On, toward the flame of the border, into the brunt of the fight,
Swept that wild wind of disaster, on with the tide of defeat.

Softly the dawn-wind awaking fluttered a pennant that fell
Over the semblance of Sunlight, stark in the pitiless day;
Riddled and slashed by the bullets sped from the pit of that hell . . .
Groaning, his master, beside him, patted his neck where he lay.

'Sunlight, it was n't for glory . . . England . . . or France . . . or the fame
Of victory . . . No . . . not the glowing tribute of history's pen.
Good-bye, old chap, for I'm going . . . earned it . . . your death is a shame . . .
We fought for the world, not an Island . . . We fought for the honor of men.'

. . . . . . . . . . . .

So we have sold them our horses. What shall we do with the gold?
Lay it on Charity's altar, purchasing columns of praise?
Noble indeed are our courses; running the race as of old;
But why should we Mammonites falter? Noble indeed are our ways.

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