Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

The Witnesses - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

Lads in the loose blue,
Crutched, with limping feet,
With bandaged arm, that roam
To--day the bustling street,

You humble us with your gaze,
Calm, confiding, clear;
You humble us with a smile
That says nothing but cheer.

Our souls are scarred with you!
Yet, though we suffered all
You have suffered, all were vain
To atone, or to recall

The robbed future, or build
The maimed body again
Whole, or ever efface
What men have done to men.

Each body of straight youth,
Strong, shapely, and marred,
Shines as out of a cloud
Of storm and splintered shard,

Of chaos, torture, blood,
Fire, thunder, and stench:
And the savage shattering noise
Of churned and shaken trench

Echoes through myriad hearts
In the dumb lands behind;--
Silent wailing, and bitter
Tears of the world's mind!

You stand upon each threshold
Without complaint.--What pen
Dares to write half the deeds
That men have done to men?

Must we be humbled more?
Peace, whose olive seems
A tree of hope and heaven,
Of answered prayers and dreams,

Peace has her own hid wounds;
She also grinds and maims.
And must we bear and share
Those old continued shames?

Not only the body's waste
But the mind's captivities--
Crippled, sore, and starved--
The ignorant victories

Of the visionless, who serve
No cause, and fight no foe!
Is a cruelty less sure
Because its ways are slow?

Now we have eyes to see.
Shall we not use them then?
These bright wounds witness
What men may do to men.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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