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

The New Year

Come you with dangers to fright us? or hazards to try out our souls?
Then may you find us undaunted; determined to get to our goals.
Now, white are the pages you bring us to fill with the tales of our deeds,
And I pray we shall square at the finish the work of our lives with our creeds.

Oh, child of a year, do you wonder what here upon earth you shall find?
America shows you a people united in purpose and mind;
Whatever you bring us of danger; whatever you hold to affright,
I pray that we never shall lower our standards of truth and of right.

You find us a people united, full pledged to the work of the world,
To banish the despot and tyrant, our banner in battle's unfurled;
And here to a world that is bleeding and weary and heartsick you come,
Whatever you've brought us of duty—we'll answer the call of your drum.

We may weep in our grief and our sorrows, we may bend 'neath the might of the blow,
But never our courage shall falter, and never we'll run from the foe.
We know not how troubled our pathways shall be nor how sorely beset,
But I pray we shall cling to our honor as men and never our purpose forget.

Our Duty to Our Flag

Less hate and greed
Is what we need
And more of service true;
More men to love
The flag above
And keep it first in view.

Less boast and brag
About the flag,
More faith in what it means;
More heads erect,
More self-respect,
Less talk of war machines.

The time to fight
To keep it bright
Is not along the way,
Nor 'cross the foam,
But here at home
Within ourselves—today.

'Tis we must love
That flag above
With all our might and main;
For from our hands—
Not distant lands—
Shall come dishonor's stain.

If that flag be
Dishonored, we
Have done it—not the foe;
If it shall fall,
We, first of all,
Shall have to strike the blow.

The Unsettled Scores

The men are talking peace at 'ome, but 'ere we're talking fight,
There's many a little debt we've got to square;
A sniper sent a bullet through my bunkie's 'ead last night,
And 'is body's lying somewhere h'over there.

Oh, we 'ear a lot of rumors that the war is h'almost through
But Hi'm thinking that it's only arf begun;
Every soldier in the trenches has a little debt that's due
And Hi'm telling you it's not a money one.

We 'ave 'eard the bullets whistle and we've 'eard the shrapnel sing
And we've listened to a dying comrade's pleas,
And we've 'eard about the comfort that the days of peace will bring,
But we've debts that can't be settled h'over seas.

They that 'aven't slept in trenches, 'aven't brothered with the worms,
'Aven't 'ad a bunkie slaughtered at their side,
May some day get together and arrange some sort of terms,
But is isn't likely we'll be satisfied.

There are debts we want to settle, 'and to 'and, and face to face,
There are one or two Hi've promised that Hi'd square;
And Hi cannot 'old my 'ead up, 'ere or in the other place,
Till Hi've settled for my bunkie, lying there.


We all are warriors with sin. Crusading knights, we come to earth
With spotless plumes and shining shields to joust with foes and prove our worth.
The world is but a battlefield where strong and weak men fill the lists,
And some make war with humble prayers, and some with swords and some with fists.
And some for pleasure or for peace forsake their purposes and goals
And barter for the scarlet joys of ease and pomp, their knightly souls.

We're all enlisted soldiers here, in service for the term called life
And each of us in some grim way must bear his portion of the strife.
Temptations everywhere assail. Men do not rise by fearing sin,
Nor he who keeps within his tent, unharmed, unscratched, the crown shall win.
When wrongs are trampling mortals down and rank injustice stalks about,
Real manhood to the battle flies, and dies or puts the foes to rout.

'Tis not the new and shining blade that marks the soldier of the field,
His glory is his broken sword, his pride the scars upon his shield;
The crimson stains that sin has left upon his soul are tongues that speak
The victory of new found strength by one who yesterday was weak.
And meaningless the spotless plume, the shining blade that goes through life
And quits this flaming battlefield without one evidence of strife.

We all are warriors with sin, we all are knights in life's crusades,
And with some form of tyranny, we're sent to earth to measure blades.
The courage of the soul must gleam in conflict with some fearful foe,
No man was ever born to life its luxuries alone to know.
And he who brothers with a sin to keep his outward garb unsoiled
And fears to battle with a wrong, shall find his soul decayed and spoiled.

Easy Service

When an empty sleeve or a sightless eye
Or a legless form I see,
I breathe my thanks to my God on High
For His watchful care o'er me.
And I say to myself, as the cripple goes
Half stumbling on his way:
I may brag and boast, but that brother knows
Why the old flag floats to-day.

I think as I set in my cozy den
Puffing one of my many pipes
That I've served with all of my fellow men
The glorious Stars and Stripes.
Then I see a troop in the faded blue
And a few in the dusty gray,
And I have to laugh at the deeds I do
For the flag that floats to-day.

I see men tangled in pointed wire,
The sport of the blazing sun,
Mangled and maimed by a leaden fire
As the tides of battle run,
And I fancy I hear their piteous calls
For merciful death, and then
The cannons cease and the darkness falls,
And those fluttering things are men.

Out there in the night they beg for death,
Yet the Reaper spurns their cries,
And it seems his jest to leave them breath
For their pitiful pleas and sighs.
And I am here in my cozy room
In touch with the joys of life,
I am miles away from the fields of doom
And the gory scenes of strife.

I never have vainly called for aid,
Nor suffered real pangs of thirst,
I have marched with life in its best parade
And never have seen its worst.
In the flowers of ease I have ever basked,
And I think as the Flag I see
How much of service from some it's asked,
How little of toil from me.

A Father's Thoughts

Because I am his father, they
Expect me to put grief away;
Because I am a man, and rough
And sometimes short of speech and gruff,
The women folks at home believe
His absence doesn't make me grieve;
But how I felt, they little know,
The day I smiled and let him go.

They little know the dreams I had
Long cherished for my sturdy lad;
They little guess the wrench it meant
That day when off to war he went;
They little know the tears I checked
While standing, smiling and erect;
They never heard my smothered sigh
When it was time to say good-bye.

"What does his father think and say"
The neighbors ask from day to day.
"Oh, he's a man," the answer then.
"And you know how it is with men.
But little do they ever say,
They do not feel the self-same way;
He seems indifferent and grim
And yet he's very proud of him."

Indifferent and grim! Oh, heart,
Be brave enough to play the part,
Let not the grief in you be shown,
Keep all your loneliness unknown,
To you the women folks must turn
For comfort when their sorrows burn.
You must not at this time reveal
The pain and anguish that you feel.

Oh, tongue, be silent through the years,
And eyes, keep back always the tears,
And let them never see or know
My hidden weight of grief and woe.
Though every golden dream I had
Was centered in my little lad,
Alone my sorrow I must bear.
They must not know how much I care.

Though women folks may talk and weep,
A man, unseen, his grief must keep,
And hide behind his smile and pride
The loneliness that dwells inside.
And so, from day to day, I go,
Playing the part of man, although
Beneath the rough outside and grim,
I think and dream and pray for him.

© 1999, Lynn Waterman