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

Beautifying the Flag

To us the Flag has little meant.
Each glorious stripe of red
Was woven there to represent
The blood of heroes dead.
On some dim, distant battle line
By other men were gained
The glories that have made it fine;
And idle we've remained.
But now the Flag shall finer grow
And ages yet to be
Shall find the courage that we show
To-day for liberty.

Of other men the Flag was told;
It flies for others' deeds;
Its pride is born of heroes bold
Who served its bygone needs.
But now our blood shall mingle there
With blood of patriots dead,
And through the years each stripe shall wear
A deeper, truer red.
The splendor of the flag shall gleam
In every radiant star,
And finer shall the banner seem
Because of what we are.

To-day new glory for the Flag
We give our best to build;
Of us shall future ages brag,
by us their blood be thrilled;
And as to us the flag has meant
The greatness of the past,
The Stars and Stripes shall represent
Our courage to the last.
The children in the years to be
Our trials shall discuss,
And cheer the emblem of the free,
In part, because of us.

To the Men at Home

No war is won by cannon fire alone;
The soldier bears the grim and dreary role;
He dies to serve the Flag that he has known;
His duty is to gain the distant goal.
But if the toiler in his homeland fair
Falter in faith and shrink from every test,
If he be not on duty ever there,
Lost to the cause is every soldier's best.

The men at home, the toiler in the shop,
The keen-eyed watcher of the spinning drill
Hear no command to vault the trench's top;
They know not what it is to die or kill,
And yet they must be brave and constant, too.
Upon them lies their precious country's fate;
They also serve the Flag as soldiers do,
'Tis theirs to make a nation's army great.

You hold your country's honor in your care.
Her glory you shall help to make or mar;
For they, who now her uniforms must wear
Can be no braver soldiers than you are.
From day to day, in big and little deeds,
At bench or lathe or desk or stretch of soil,
You are the man your country sorely needs!
Will you not give to her your finest toil?

No war is won by cannon fire alone.
The men at home must also share the fight.
By what they are, a nation's strength is shown,
The army but reflects their love of right.
Will you not help to hold our battle line,
Will you not give the fullest of your powers
In sacrifice and service that is fine
That victory shall speedily be ours?

From Laughter to Labor

We have wandered afar in our hunting for pleasure,
We have scorned the soul's duty to gather up treasure;
We have lived for our laughter and toiled for our winning
And paid little heed to the soul's simple sinning.
But light were the burdens that freighted us then,
God and country, to-day let us prove we are men!

We have idled and dreamed in life's merriest places,
The years have writ little of care in our faces;
We have brought up our children, expectant of gladness
And little we've taught them of life and its sadness.
For distant and dim seemed the forces of wrong,
God and country, to-day let us prove we are stong!

We have had our glad years, now the sad years are coming,
We have danced to gay tunes, now we march to war's drumming.
We have laughed and have loved as we pleasantly toiled,
And now we must show that our souls are unspoiled.
We must work that our Flag shall in honor still wave,
God and country, to-day let us prove we are brave!


Forgotten petty difference now,
The larger purpose glows,
The storm is here, a common fear
Its deadly lightning shows.
The Ship of State must bear us all
And danger makes us kin,
As one, we all shall rise or fall,
So shall we strive to win.

Our banner's flying at the mast,
Our course lies straight ahead;
The ocean's trough is deep and rough,
The waves are stained with red.
The bond of danger tighter grows,
We serve a common plan;
Send o'er the sea the word that we
Are all American.

One hundred million sturdy souls
Once more united stand,
As one, you will find them all behind
The banner of our land.
And side by side they work to-day
In silken garb or rag,
And once again our troops of men
Are brothers of the flag.

And from the storm that hovers low,
And from the angry sea
Where dangers lurk and hate's at work
Shall come new victory.
The flag shall know not race nor creed,
Nor different bands of men;
A people strong round it shall throng
To ne'er divide again.

April Thoughts

Listen to the laughter of the brook that's racin' by!
Listen to the chatter of the black-birds on the fence!
Stand an' see the beauties of the blue that's in the sky—
Then ask of God why mortals haven't any better sense
Than to quarrel an' to battle
Where the guns an' cannon rattle
An' to slaughter one another an' to fill the world with hate.
God brings the buds to blossom
Where the gentle breezes toss 'em
An' the soul is blind to beauty that takes anger for its mate.

Listen to the singin' of the robins in the trees!
See the sunbeams flashin' where they're mirrored by the stream!
Hear the drowsy buzzin' of the honey-seekin' bees,
Then draw a little closer to your God the while you dream.
When the world is dressed to cheer you
Don't you feel Him standin' near you?
When your soul drinks in the beauty of the wonders in His plan,
An' you've put away your passions,
Don't you think the works He fashions
In their beauty an' their bigness mock the littleness of man?

Oh, I never walk an orchard nor a field with daisies strewn,
An' I never stand bare-headed gazin' everywhere about
At the living joys around me, be it morning, night or noon,
But I ask God to forgive me that I ever held a doubt.
Surely men must walk in blindness,
With the whole world tuned to kindness,
An' all dumb an' feathered creatures fairly bubblin' o'er with glee
To devote themselves to madness
That can only end in sadness
An' to think that they are being what God put them here to be.

The Chaplain

He was just a small church parson when the war broke out, and he
Looked and dressed and acted like all parsons that we see.
He wore the cleric's broadcloth and he hooked his vest behind,
But he had a man's religion and he had a stong man's mind,
And he heard the call to duty, and he quit his chruch and went,
And he bravely tramped right with 'em everywhere the boys were sent.

He put aside his broadcloth and he put the khaki on;
Said he'd come to be a soldier and was going to live like one.
Then he refereed the prize fights that the boys pulled off at night,
And if no one else was handy he'd put on the gloves and fight.
He wasn't there a fortnight ere he saw the soldiers' needs,
And he said: "I'm done with preaching; this is now the time for deeds."

He learned the sound of shrapnel, he could tell the size of shell
From the shriek it made above him, and he knew just where it fell.
In the front line trench he labored, and he knew the feel of mud,
And he didn't run from danger and he wasn't scared of blood.
He wrote letters for the wounded, and he cheered them with his jokes,
And he never made a visit without passing round the smokes.

Then one day a bullet got him, as he knelt beside a lad
Who was "going west" right speedy, and they both seemed mighty glad,
'Cause he held the boys hand tighter, and he smiled and whispered low,
"Now you needn't fear the journey; over there with you I'll go."
And they both passed out together, arm in arm I think they went.
He had kept his vow to follow everywhere the boys were sent.

© 1999, Lynn Waterman