Verse > Anthologies > George Herbert Clarke, ed. > A Treasury of War Poetry
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George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953).  A Treasury of War Poetry.  1917.
 
49. The Searchlights
 
By Alfred Noyes
 
 
[Political morality differs from individual morality, because there is no power above the State.—General von Bernhardi.]
 
 
SHADOW by shadow, stripped for fight,
  The lean black cruisers search the sea.
Night-long their level shafts of light
  Revolve, and find no enemy.
Only they know each leaping wave        5
May hide the lightning, and their grave.
 
And in the land they guard so well
  Is there no silent watch to keep?
An age is dying, and the bell
  Rings midnight on a vaster deep.        10
But over all its waves, once more
The searchlights move, from shore to shore.
 
And captains that we thought were dead,
  And dreamers that we thought were dumb,
And voices that we thought were fled,        15
  Arise, and call us, and we come;
And “Search in thine own soul,” they cry;
“For there, too, lurks thine enemy.”
 
Search for the foe in thine own soul,
  The sloth, the intellectual pride;        20
The trivial jest that veils the goal
  For which our fathers lived and died;
The lawless dreams, the cynic Art,
That rend thy nobler self apart.
 
Not far, not far into the night,        25
  These level swords of light can pierce;
Yet for her faith does England fight,
  Her faith in this our universe,
Believing Truth and Justice draw
From founts of everlasting law;        30
 
The law that rules the stars, our stay,
  Our compass through the world’s wide sea,
The one sure light, the one sure way,
  The one firm base of Liberty;
The one firm road that men have trod        35
Through Chaos to the throne of God.
 
Therefore a Power above the State,
  The unconquerable Power, returns,
The fire, the fire that made her great
  Once more upon her altar burns,        40
Once more, redeemed and healed and whole,
She moves to the Eternal Goal.
 

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