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

The Things That Make a Soldier Great

The things that make a soldier great and send him out to die,
To face the flaming cannon's mouth, nor ever question why,
Are lilacs by a little porch, the row of tulips red,
The peonies and pansies, too, the old petunia bed,
The grass plot where his children play, the roses on the wall:
'Tis these that make a soldier great. He's fighting for them all.

'Tis not the pomp and pride of kings that make a soldier brave,
'Tis not allegiance to the flag that over him may wave;
For soldiers never fight so well on land or on the foam
As when behind the cause they see the little place called home.
Endanger but that humble street whereon his children run—
You make a soldier of the man who never bore a gun.

What is it through the battle smoke the valiant soldier sees?
The little garden far away, the budding apple trees,
The little patch of ground back there, the children at their play,
Perhaps a tiny mound behind the simple church of gray.
The golden thread of courage isn't linked to castle dome
But to the spot, where'er it be—the humble spot called home.

And now the lilacs bud again and all is lovely there,
And homesick soldiers far away know spring is in the air;
The tulips come to bloom again, the grass once more is green,
And every man can see the spot where all his joys have been.
He sees his children smile at him, he hears the bugle call,
And only death can stop him now—he's fighting for them all.

The Flag
We never knew how much the Flag
Could mean, until he went away,
We used to boast of it and brag,
But now the Flag can start out tears
In moments of our greatest joy,
Old Glory in the sky appears
The Symbol of our little boy.

We knew that sometimes people wept
To see the Flag go waving by,
But never guessed the griefs they kept—
We never understood just why.
But now our eyes grow quickly dim,
Our voices choke with sobs today;
The Flag is telling us of him,
Our little boy who's gone away.

We never knew the Flag could be
So much a part of human life,
We thought it beautiful to see
Before these bitter days of strife;
But now more beautiful it gleams,
And deeper in our hearts it dwells;
It is the emblem of our dreams,
For of our little boy it tells.

A Battle Prayer
God of battles, be with us now:
Guard our sons from the lead of shame,
Watch our sons when the cannons flame,
Let them not to a tyrant bow.

God of battles, to Thee we pray
Be with each loyal son who fights
In the cause of justice and human rights;
Grant him strength and lead the way.

God of battles, our youth we give
To the battle line on a foreign soil,
To conquer hatred and lust and spoil;
Grant that they and their cause shall live.

Good Luck
Good luck! That's all I'm saying, as you sail across the sea;
The best o' luck, in the parting, is the prayer you get from me.
May you never meet a danger that you won't come safely through,
May you never meet a German that can get the best of you;
Oh! A thousand things may happen when a fellow's at the front,
A thousand different mishaps, but here's hoping that they won't.

Good luck! That's all I'm saying, as you turn away to go.
Good luck and plenty of it, may it be your lot to know;
May you never meet rough weather, but remember if you do
That the folks at home are wishing that you'll all come safely through.
Oh! A thousand things may happen when a fellow bears the brunt
Of His Country's fight for glory, but I'm praying that they won't.

Good luck! That's all I'm saying as you're falling into line;
May the splendor of your service bring you everything that's fine;
May the fates deal kindly with you, may you never know distress
And may every task you tackle end triumphant with success.
Oh! A thousand things may happen that with joy your life will fill;
You may not get all the gladness, but I'm hoping that you will.

A Prayer, 1918
Oh, make us worthy,
God, we pray,
To do thy service
Here to-day;
Endow us with
The strength we need
For every
Sacrificial deed

The Change
'Twas hard to think that he must go,
We knew that we should miss him so,
We Thought that he must always stay
Beside us, laughing, day by day;
That he must never know the care
And hurt and grief of life out there.
Then came the call for youth; and he
Talked to his mother and with me,
And suddenly we learned the boy
Was hungerig to know the joy
Of doing something real with life,
And that he craved the test of strife.

And so we steeled ourselves to dread;
To see at night his empty bed;
To feel the silence and the gloom
That hovers o'er his vacant room,
And though we wept the day he went,
And many a lonely hour we've spent,
We've come to think as he, somehow,
And we are more contented now;
We're proud that we can stand and say
We have a boy who's gone away.
And we are glad to know that he
Is serving where he ought to be.

It's queer, the change that time has brought;
We're different now in speech and thought;
His letters home mean joy to us,
His difficulties we discuss.
When word of his promotion came,
His mother, with her eyes aflame
With happiness and pride, rushed out
To tell the neighbors round about.
Her boy! Her boy is doing well!
What greater news can mothers tell?
I think that pity now we show
For those who have no boys to go.

Mothers and Wives
Mothers and wives, 'tis the call to arms
That the bugler yonder prepares to sound;
We stand on the brink of war's alarms
And your men may lie on a bloodstained ground.
The drums may play and the flags may fly,
And our boys may don the brown and blue,
And the call that summons brave men to die
Is the call for glorious women, too.

Mothers and wives, if the summons comes,
You, as ever since war has been,
Must hear with courage the rolling drums
And dry your tears when the flags are seen.
For never has hero fought and died
Who has braver been than the mother, who
Buckled his saber at his side,
And sent him forward to dare and do.

Mothers and wives, should the call ring out,
It is you must answer your country's cry:
You must furnish brave hearts and stout
For the firing line where the heroes die.
And never a corpse on the field of strife
Should be honored more in his country's sight
Than the nobel mother or noble wife
Who sent him forth in the cause of right.

Mother and wives, 'tis the call for men
To give their strength and to give their lives;
But well we know, such a summons then
Is the call for mothers and loyal wives.
For you must five us the strength we need,
You must give us the boys in blue,
For never a boy or a man shall bleed
But a mother or wife shall suffer, too.

The Call to Service
These are the days when little thoughts
Must cease men's minds to occupy;
The nation needs men's larger creeds,
Big men must answer to her cry:
No longer selfish ways we tread,
The greater task lies just ahead.

These are the days when petty things
By all men must be thrust aside;
The country needs men's finiest deeds,
Awakened is the nation's pride;
Men must forsake their selfish strife
Once more to guard their country's life.

© 1999, Lynn Waterman