Cicely Fox Smith

(1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954 / Lymm, Cheshire)

The Red Rose - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

'The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.'

Through the years - from the far day of Flodden,
From the gardens of Minden, the trodden
Red Inkerman snow;
Where Quebec keeps remembrance undying,
Where the dead under strange stars are lying
'Mid names that we know, -

Down the loud-ringing years of our story,
To the day of our yesterday's glory,
Our yesterday's pride -
Come the names of the true, the unfearing,
Stern sons of the grey mother's rearing,
Who conquered and died;

Ungrudging who gave full surrender
Of life, in its high noon of splendour,
Both near and afar;
Not last, on the highway of daring,
With the Red Rose of Lancaster wearing
The red rose of war.

The flower which, flame-bright where it springs on
The tramplings of captains and kings, on
The red-trampled sod,
Men gather to blossom forever -
The crown of all strife and endeavour -
In gardens of God.

What more? A torn standard, whose tatters
The breath of the years' passing shatters,
To dust falling down?
A memory scarce known from the deedless?
A statue high-set o'er the heedless,
Fierce tide of the town?

A name men remember, and wonder
A moment what ghost of war's thunder
It stirs in the brain?
A vision, a glory that passes -
As the light wind that stirs the long grasses
O'er graves of the slain?

Not so! For the spirit which brooks not
The name of dishonour, and looks not
On shirking nor shame,
Still lingers, to wake with the shrilling
Of the trumpets' high challenge note thrilling -
Forever the same.

We know not what battles lie hidden
Till the noise of their thunder is bidden
No longer be dumb -
What winepress of nations must redden
What terrible, vast Armageddon,
In days that shall come.

We know not; yet should the day find us
When a hand should be put forth to bind us
In fetters abhorr'd,
Or some lie under Heaven foully creeping
Call aloud for the terrible, sweeping,
White truth of the sword,

It may be we shall not be found wanting!
Not as children with loud words of vaunting,
But strong as of yore;
Not last, on the highway of daring,
With the Red Rose of Lancaster wearing
The red rose of war!


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010



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