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Poem by Amy Lowell

The Allies

August 14th, 1914

Into the brazen, burnished sky, the cry hurls itself.  The 
zigzagging cry
of hoarse throats, it floats against the hard winds, and binds the 
of the serpent to its tail, the long snail-slow serpent of marching 
Men weighed down with rifles and knapsacks, and parching with war.
The cry jars and splits against the brazen, burnished sky.
This is the war of wars, and the cause?  Has 
this writhing worm of men
a cause?
Crackling against the polished sky is an eagle 
with a sword.  The eagle is red
and its head is flame.

In the shoulder of the worm is a teacher.
His tongue laps the war-sucked air in drought, 
but he yells defiance
at the red-eyed eagle, and in his ears are the bells of new philosophies,
and their tinkling drowns the sputter of the burning sword.  He 
ФGod damn you!  When you are broken, the word will strike 
out new shoots.Ф
His boots are tight, the sun is hot, and he may 
be shot, but he is in
the shoulder of the worm.

A dust speck in the wormТs belly is a poet.
He laughs at the flaring eagle and makes a long 
nose with his fingers.
He will fight for smooth, white sheets of paper, and uncurdled ink.
The sputtering sword cannot make him blink, and his thoughts are
wet and rippling.  They cool his heart.
He will tear the eagle out of the sky and give 
the earth tranquillity,
and loveliness printed on white paper.

The eye of the serpent is an owner of mills.
He looks at the glaring sword which has snapped 
his machinery
and struck away his men.
But it will all come again, when the sword is broken 
to a million dying stars,
and there are no more wars.

Bankers, butchers, shop-keepers, painters, farmers -- men, sway 
and sweat.
They will fight for the earth, for the increase of the slow, sure 
of peace, for the release of hidden forces.  They jibe 
at the eagle
and his scorching sword.
One!  Two! -- One!  Two! -- 
clump the heavy boots.  The cry hurtles
against the sky.
Each man pulls his belt a little tighter, and shifts 
his gun
to make it lighter.  Each man thinks of a woman, and slaps 
out a curse
at the eagle.  The sword jumps in the hot sky, and the 
worm crawls on
to the battle, stubbornly.
This is the war of wars, from eye to tail the serpent 
has one cause:

Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell's other poems:
  1. The Coal Picker
  2. The Exeter Road
  3. To Elizabeth Ward Perkins
  4. The Road to Avignon
  5. The Precinct. Rochester

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