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

Thoughts of a Soldier
Since men with life must purchase life
And some must die that more may live,
Unto the Great Cashier of strife
A fine accounting let me give.
Perhaps to-morrow I shall stand
Before his cage, prepared to buy
New splendor for my native land:
Oh, God, then bravely let me die!

If after I shall fall, shall rise
A fairer land than I have known,
I shall not grudge my sacrifice,
Although I pay the price alone.
If still more beautiful to see
The Stars and Stripes o'er men shall wave
And finer shall my country be,
To-morrow let me find my grave.

To-night life seems so fair and sweet,
Yet tyranny is stalking here,
And hate and lust and foul deceit
Hang heavy on the atmosphere.
Injustice seeks to throttle right,
And laughter's stifled to a sigh.
If death can take so great a blight
From human lives, then let me die.

If death must be the cost of life,
And freedom's terms are human souls,
Into the thickest of the strife
Then let me go to pay the tolls.
I would enrich my native land,
New splendor to her flag I'd give,
If where I fall shall freedom stand,
And where I die shall freedom live.

To-morrow death with me may trade;
Let me not quibble o'er the price;
But may I, once the bargain's made,
With courage meet the sacrifice.
If happiness for ages long
My little term of life can buy,
God, for my country make me strong;
To-morrow let me bravely die.

The Flag on the Farm
We've raised a flagpole on the farm
And flung Old Glory to the sky,
And it's another touch of charm
That seems to cheer the passer-by,
But more than that, no matter where
We're laboring in wood or field,
We turn and see it in the air,
Our promise of a greater yield.
It whispers to us all day long
From dawn to dusk: "Be true, be strong;
Who falters now with plough or hoe
Gives comfort to his country's foe."

It seems to me I've never tried
To do so much about the place,
Nor been so slow to come inside,
But since I've got the Flag to face,
Each night when I come home to rest
I feel that I must look up there
And say: "Old Flag, I've done my best,
To-day I've tried to do my share."
And sometimes, just to catch the breeze,
I stop my work, and o'er the trees
Old Glory fairly shouts my way:
"You're shirking far too much to-day!"

The help have caught the spirit too;
The hired man takes off his cap
Before the old red, white and blue,
Then to the horses says: "Giddap!"
And starting bravely to the field
He tells the milkmaid by the door:
"We're going to make these acres yield
More than they've ever done before."
She smiles to hear his gallant brag,
Then drops a curtsey to the Flag,
And in her eyes there seems to shine
A patiotism that is fine.

We've raised a flagpole on the farm
And flung Old Glory to the sky,
We're far removed from war's alarm,
But courage here is running high.
We're doing things we never dreamed
We'd ever find the time to do;
Deeds that impossible once seemed
Each morning now we hurry through.
The Flag now waves above our toil
And sheds its glory on the soil,
And boy and man look up to it
As if to say: "I'll do my bit!"

The Mother on the Sidewalk
The mother on the sidewalk as the troops are marching by
Is the mother of Old Glory that is waving in the sky.
Men have fought to keep it splendid, men have died to keep it bright,
But the flag was born of woman and her sufferings day and night;
'Tis her sacrifice has made it, and once more we ought to pray
For the brave and loyal mother of the boy that goes away.

There are days of grief before her, there are hours that she will weep,
There are nights of anxious waiting when her fear will banish sleep;
She has heard her country calling and has risen to the test,
And has placed upon the altar of the nation's need, her best.
And no man shall ever suffer in the turmoil of the fray
The anguish of the mother of the boy who goes away.

You may boast men's deeds of glory, you may tell their courage great,
But to die is easier service than alone to sit and wait.
And I hail the little mother, with the tear-stained face and grave
Who has given the Flag a soldier—she's the bravest of the brave.
And that banner we are proud of, with its red and blue and white
Is a lasting tribute holy to all mothers' love of right.

The Big Deeds
We are done with little thinking and we're done with little deeds,
We are done with petty conduct and we're done with narrow creeds;
We have grown to men and women, and we've noble work to do,
And to-day we are a people with a larger point of view.
In a big way we must labor, if our Flag shall always fly.
In a big way some must suffer, in a big way some must die.

There must be no little dreaming in the visions that we see,
There must be no selfish planning in the joys that are to be;
We have set our faces eastwards to the rising of the sun
That shall light a better nation,and there's big work to be done.
And the petty souls and narrow, seeking only selfish gain,
Shall be vanquished by the toilers big enough to suffer pain.

It's a big task we have taken; 'tis for others we must fight
We must see our duty clearly in a white and shining light;
We must quit our little circles where we've moved in little ways,
And work, as men and women, for the bigger, better days.
We must quit our selfish thinking and our narrow views and creeds,
And as people, big and splendid, we must do the bigger deeds.

The Wrist Watch Man
He is marching dusty highways and he's riding bitter trails.
His eyes are clear and shining and his muscles hard as nails.
He is wearing Yankee khaki and healthy coat of tan,
And the chap that we are backing is the Wrist Watch Man.

He's no parlor dude, a-prancing, he's no puny pacifist,
And it's not for affectation there's a watch upon his wrist.
He's a fine two-fisted scrapper, he is pure American,
And the backbone of the nation is the Wrist Watch Man.

He is marching with a rifle, he is digging in a trench,
He is swapping English phrases with a poilu for his French;
You will find him in the navy doing anything he can,
For at every post of duty is the Wrist Watch Man.

Oh, the time was that we chuckled at the soft and flabby chap
Who wore a little wrist watch that was fastened with a strap.
But the chuckles all have vanished, and with glory now we scan
The courage and the splendor of the Wrist Watch Man.

He is not the man we laughed at, not the one who won our jeers,
He's the man that we are proud of, he's the man that owns our cheers;
He's the finiest of the finest, he's the bravest of the clan,
And I pray for God's protection for our Wrist Watch Man.

Follow the Flag
Aye, we will follow the Flag
Wherever she goes,
Into the tropic sun,
Into the northern snows;
Go where the guns ring out
Scattering steel and lead,
Painting the hills with blood,
Strewing the fields with dead.
But in each heart must be,
And back of each bitter gun,
Love for the best in life
After the fighting's done.

Aye, we will follow the Flag
Into benighted lands,
Brave in the faith for which,
Proudly, our banner stands.
Life for her life we'll pay,
Blood for her blood we'll give,
Fighting, but not to kill,
Save that the best shall live.
But, when the cannon's roar
Dies in a hymn of peace,
Justice and truth must reign,
Power of the brute must cease.

Aye, we will follow the Flag,
Gladly her work we'll do,
Banishing wrongs of old,
Founding the truth anew.
What though our guns must speak,
What though brave men must die,
Ages of truth to come
All this shall justify.
Men in the charms of peace,
Basking in Freedom's sun,
Some day shall bless our Flag
After our work is done.

Aye, we will follow the Flag
Wherever she goes,
Into the tropic sun,
Into the northern snows.
Fearlessly, on we'll go
Into the cruel strife,
Gladly the few shall die,
Winning for many, life.
Tyranny's wrongs must cease,
Brutes must no longer brag,
This is our work on earth,
So we will follow the Flag.

We've Had a Letter From the Boy
We've had a letter from the boy,
And oh, the gladness and the joy
It brought to us! We read it o'er
I'd say a dozen times or more.
We laughed until the teardrops fell
At all the fun he had to tell.
He's in the navy, wearing blue,
And everything is all so new
That he can see in youthful style
The funny things to make us smile.

He's working hard! Between the lines
We gather that. The brass he shines
Without complaining, and the food
He gets to eat is very crude.
And yet he laughs at all his chores.
He says the maid who scrubs our floors
Will have to quit when he returns
Unless a better way she learns.
"I've got it on the fairer sex,"
Says he, "since I am swabbing decks."

"A sailor's life, dear Mom," writes he,
"Is not the life you picked for me.
And yet I'm getting fat and strong
And learning as I go along
That any life a man can find
Is apt to grow to be a grind
Unless a fellow has the wit
To see the brighter side of it.
Don't worry for your sailor son;
He sleeps well when his work is done."

We've had a letter from the boy,
And oh, the gladness and the joy
It brought to us! 'Twas good to know
That he is facing duty so.
Between the lines that he had penned
His mother's bitter fears to end,
I saw his manhood glowing bright,
And now I know his heart is right.
Behind the laughter I could see
My boy's the man I'd hoped he'd be.

© 1999, Lynn Waterman