War Time Rhymes
by Edgar A. Guest
(published 1918)

They have said you needn't go to the front to face the foe;
They have left you with your women and your children safe at home;
They have spared you from the crash of the murderous guns that flash
And the horrors and the madness and the death across the foam.
But it's your fight, just the same, and your country still must claim
The splendor of your manhood and the best that you can do;
In a thousand different ways through the dark and troubled days,
You must stand behind the nation that has been so good to you.

You're exempt from shot and shell, from the havoc and the hell
That have robbed the world of gladness; you have missed the sterner fate
Of the brave young men and fine, that are falling into line,
You may stay among your children who are swinging on the gate.
But you're not exempt from love of the Flag that flies above,
You've a greater obligation to your county to be true;
You must work fom day to day in a bigger, better way
For the glory of the nation that has been so good to you.

You are not exempt from trial, from long days of self-denial,
From devotion to your homeland and from courage in the test.
You are not exempt from giving to your country's needs and living
As a citizen and soldier—an example of the best.
You've a harder task before you than the boys who're fighting for you,
You must match their splendid courage and devotion through and through;
You must prove by fine endeavor, and by standing constant ever
That you're worthy of the country that has been so good to you.

We know not where the path may lead nor what the end may be,
The clouds are dark above us now, the future none can see,
And yet when all the storms have passed, and cannons cease to roar,
We shall be prouder of our flag than we have been before.

We could not longer idle stay, spectators of a wrong,
The weak were crying out for help against oppression strong;
And though we pray we may be spared the bitterness of strife,
'Twere better that we die than live the coward's feeble life.

We could not longer silent sit, our glory at an end,
And blind ourselves unto the wrongs committed by a friend;
We must be tolerant with all, yet in these days of hate,
Some things have happened that it would be shame to tolerate.

And now we stand before the world, erect and calm and grave,
And speak the words that decency must rule the land and wave;
Into the chaos of despair we fling ourselves to-day
As guardians of precious trust hate must not sweep away.

We must rejoince, if we are men, not weak and soft of heart
That we have heeded duty's call, and taken up our part.
And when at last sweet peace shall come, and all the strife is o'er,
We shall be prouder of our flag than we have been before.

A Prayer
God grant to us the strength of men,
The patience of the brave;
The wisdom to be silent, when
The days with doubt are grave.
When dangers come, as come they must,
Thoughout the trying hours
Let us continue still in trust
That triumph shall be ours.

We have foresworn our days of ease
To battle for the right,
To venture over troubled seas
Oppression's wrongs to fight.
And we have pledged ourselves to grief.
And bitter hurt and pain,
Then must we cling to this belief:
We suffer not in vain.

God grant to us the strength of men,
God help us to be true
Until that glorious morning when
The world shall smile anew.
We shall be tested sore and tried,
And flayed by many fears,
Yet let us in this faith abide,
That right shall rule the years.

One came to the house with a pretty speech:
"It's all for the best," said he,
And I know that he sought my heart to reach,
And I know that he grieved with me.

But I was too full of my sorrow then
To list to his words or care;
Though I've tried I cannot recall again
The comfort he gave me there.

But another came, and his lips were dumb
As he grasped me by the hand,
And he stammered: "Old man, I had to come,
Oh, I hope you'll understand."

And ever since then I have felt his hand
Clasped tightly in my own,
And to-day his silence I understand—
My sorrowing he had known.

They say we must not hate, nor fight in hate.
I've thought it over many a solemn hour,
And cannot mildly view the man or state
That has no thought, save only to be great;
I cannot love the creature drunk with power.
I hate the hand that slaughters babes at sea,
I hate that will that orders wives to die.
And there is something rises up in me
When brutes run wild in crime and lechery
That soft adjustments will not satisfy.

Men seldom fight the things they do not hate;
A vice grows strong on mildly tempered scorn;
Rank thrives the weed the gradeners tolerate;
You cannot stroke the snake that lies in wait,
And change his nature with to-morrow's morn.
If roses are to bloom, the weeds must go;
Vice be dethroned if virtue is to reign;
Honor and shame together cannot grow,
Sin either conquers or we lay it low,
Wrong must be hated if the truth remain.

I hold that we must fight this war in hate—
In bitter hate of blood in fury spilled;
Of children, bending over book and slate,
Slaughtered to make a Prussian despot great;
In hate of mothers pitilessly killed.
In hate of liars plotting wars for gain;
In hate of crimes too black for printed page;
In hate of wrongs that mark the tyrant's reign—
And crush forever all within his train.
Such hate shall be the glory of our age.

General Pershing
He isn't long on speeches. At the banquet table, he
Could name a dozen places where he would much rather be.
He's not one for fuss and feathers or for marching in review,
But he's busy every minute when he's got a job to do.
And you'll find him in the open, fighting hard and fighting square
For the glory of his country when his boys get over there.

He has listened to the cheering of the splendid folks of France,
And he knows that he's the leader of America's advance,
And he knows his task is mighty and that words will not avail,
So he's standing to his duty, for he isn't there to fail.
And you'll find him cool and steady when the guns begin to flare,
And he'll talk in deeds of glory when his boys are over there.

He has gone to face the fury of the Prussian hordes that sweep
O'er the fertile fields of Freedom, where the forms of heroes sleep,
And it seems no time for talking or for laughter or for cheers,
With the wounded all aobut him and their moaning in his ears.
He is waiting for to-morrow, waiting there to do his share,
And he'll strike a blow for freedom when his boys get over there.

The Better Thing
It is better to die for the flag,
For its red and its white and its blue,
Than to hang back and shirk and to lag
And let the flag sink out of view.
It is better to give up this life
In the heat and thick of the strife
Than to live out your days 'neath a sky,
Where Old Glory shall never more fly.

The peace that we long for will be
Far worse than the war that we dread
If never again we're to see
The blue, and the white and the red
Wind-tossed and sun-kissed in the skies.
If ever the Stars and Stripes dies
Or loses its lustre and pride,
We shall wish in our souls we had died.

It is better by far that we die
Than that flag shall pass out of the world;
If ever it ceases to fly,
If ever it's hauled down and furled,
Dishonor shall stamp us with shame
And freedom be naught but a name,
And the few years of dearly-bought breath
Will be filled with worse horrors than death.

© 1999, Lynn Waterman