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Poem by Menella Bute Smedley

Lines on the Greek Massacre

White Angels, listening all around
The terror, wrath, and strife of men,
For faint heroic notes that sound
Through the mean tumult now and then,
What heard ye, that your watching eyes
Received such rapture in their calm
As if through common agonies
They saw the halo and the palm?
We only heard the bitter wail
Of hearts that break, and prayers that fail;
We only saw the shame, the pain,
Of England on her knees in vain,
Pleading for sons ignobly slain;
That fruitless death, these helpless tears,
Shall scar and stain the coming years
With savage infamy of crime
Thrust through our tender modern Time.

On this grand soil which year by year
Renews the unforgotten bloom
Of deeds which Time but makes more clear
And Deaths which nothing can entomb,
They fell, but did not add a name
To Earth's broad characters of gold;
There, in the citadel of Fame
They died, with nothing to be told,
While schoolboy memories thronged their ears
With echoes from the calling years,
And brought the happy Morning back
As closed the darkness cold and black;
How fair was Life when first they read
Of these familiar glorious themes!
The classic ground which holds them dead
Was longed for in their college dreams,
When links of light bound land to land
Like comrades clasping hand in hand,
As English youth, athirst for fame,
Caught up the old Athenian flame;

Yet, mourners, on these nameless pangs
Henceforth a new tradition hangs,

For here, by loftier hopes consoled
Than soothed the Demigods of old,
By angel ministries upheld,
By saints awaited and beheld,
These perished not, but passed from sight
Into the Bosom of the Light.
For us, one tremulous sigh of prayer
Hallows the conquest-breathing air
More than all shouts for heroes spent
Who died not knowing where they went.
Here shall be told, when pilgrims come,
How each his brother strove to cheer;
How tenderly they talked of home,
How they seemed ignorant of fear,
Patient and yet prepared for strife;
While one, the gentlest, turned from life
So sweetly, that no tongue can say
If it was rent or given away.
And as, where loyal warriors sink,
We, passing by the place, may pause,
To think, not of their names, but think
Of their great Leader and their Cause;
So, by this grave and gate of death
Abides the murmur of a breath
Recalling to the passers-by
Not Marathon, but Calvary!

Menella Bute Smedley

Menella Bute Smedley's other poems:
  1. Love in Sorrow
  2. The King's Beard
  3. The Wounded Daisy
  4. Lilies
  5. The Shadow from the Valley

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