Hallow-E'en, 1915

Winifred M. Letts - 1882-1972
Will you come back to us, men of our hearts, to-night 
In the misty close of the brief October day? 
Will you leave the alien graves where you sleep and steal away 
To see the gables and eaves of home grow dark in the evening light? 

O men of the manor and moated hall and farm, 
Come back to-night, treading softly over the grass; 
The dew of the autumn dusk will not betray where you pass; 
The watchful dog may stir in his sleep but he'll raise no hoarse alarm. 

Then you will stand, not strangers, but wishful to look 
At the kindly lamplight shed from the open door, 
And the fire-lit casement where one, having wept you sore, 
Sits dreaming alone with her sorrow, not heeding her open book. 

Forgotten awhile the weary trenches, the dome 
Of pitiless Eastern sky, in this quiet hour 
When no sound breaks the hush but the chimes from the old church tower, 
And the river's song at the weir,—ah! then we will welcome you home. 

You will come back to us just as the robin sings 
Nunc Dimittis from the larch to a sun late set 
In purple woodlands; when caught like silver fish in a net 
The stars gleam out through the orchard boughs and the church owl flaps his wings. 

We have no fear of you, silent shadows, who tread 
The leaf-bestrewn paths, the dew-wet lawns. Draw near 
To the glowing fire, the empty chair,—we shall not fear, 
Being but ghosts for the lack of you, ghosts of our well-beloved dead.

More by Winifred M. Letts

Hallow-E'en, 1914

"Why do you wait at your door, woman, 
     Alone in the night?" 
"I am waiting for one who will come, stranger, 
     To show him a light. 
He will see me afar on the road 
     And be glad at the sight." 

"Have you no fear in your heart, woman, 
     To stand there alone? 
There is comfort for you and kindly content 
     Beside the hearthstone." 
But she answered, "No rest can I have 
     Till I welcome my own." 

"Is it far he must travel to-night, 
     This man of your heart?" 
"Strange lands that I know not and pitiless seas 
     Have kept us apart, 
And he travels this night to his home 
     Without guide, without chart." 

"And has he companions to cheer him?" 
     "Aye, many," she said. 
"The candles are lighted, the hearthstones are swept, 
     The fires glow red. 
We shall welcome them out of the night— 
     Our home-coming dead."

The Spires of Oxford

I saw the spires of Oxford
    As I was passing by,
The gray spires of Oxford
    Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Oxford men
    Who went abroad to die.

The years go fast in Oxford,
    The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
    On careless boys at play.
But when the bugles sounded war
    They put their games away.

They left the peaceful river,
    The cricket-field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Oxford,
    To seek a bloody sod—
They gave their merry youth away
    For country and for God.

God rest you, happy gentlemen,
    Who laid your good lives down,
Who took the khaki and the gun
    Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
    Than even Oxford town. 

To a Soldier in Hospital

Courage came to you with your boyhood's grace
     Of ardent life and limb.
Each day new dangers steeled you to the test,
     To ride, to climb, to swim.
Your hot blood taught you carelessness of death
          With every breath.

So when you went to play another game
     You could not but be brave:
An Empire's team, a rougher football field,
     The end—perhaps your grave.
What matter? On the winning of a goal
          You staked your soul.

Yes, you wore courage as you wore your youth
     With carelessness and joy.
But in what Spartan school of discipline
     Did you get patience, boy?
How did you learn to bear this long-drawn pain
          And not complain?

Restless with throbbing hopes, with thwarted aims,
     Impulsive as a colt,
How do you lie here month by weary month
     Helpless, and not revolt?
What joy can these monotonous days afford
          Here in a ward?

Yet you are merry as the birds in spring,
     Or feign the gaiety,
Lest those who dress and tend your wound each day
     Should guess the agony.
Lest they should suffer—this the only fear
          You let draw near.

Greybeard philosophy has sought in books
     And argument this truth,
That man is greater than his pain, but you
     Have learnt it in your youth.
You know the wisdom taught by Calvary
          At twenty-three.

Death would have found you brave, but braver still
     You face each lagging day,
A merry Stoic, patient, chivalrous,
     Divinely kind and gay.
You bear your knowledge lightly, graduate
          Of unkind Fate.

Careless philosopher, the first to laugh,
     The latest to complain.
Unmindful that you teach, you taught me this
     In your long fight with pain:
Since God made man so good—here stands my creed—
          God's good indeed.