Verse > Anthologies > George Herbert Clarke, ed. > A Treasury of War Poetry
George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953).  A Treasury of War Poetry.  1917.
95. The Messines Road
By J. E. Stewart
THE ROAD that runs up to Messines
    Is double-locked with gates of fire,
Barred with high ramparts, and between
    The unbridged river, and the wire.
None ever goes up to Messines,        5
    For Death lurks all about the town,
Death holds the vale as his demesne,
    And only Death moves up and down.
Choked with wild weeds, and overgrown
    With rank grass, all torn and rent        10
By war’s opposing engines, strewn
    With débris from each day’s event!
And in the dark the broken trees,
    Whose arching boughs were once its shade
Grim and distorted, ghostly ease        15
    In groans their souls vexed and afraid.
Yet here the farmer drove his cart,
    Here friendly folk would meet and pass,
Here bore the good wife eggs to mart
    And old and young walked up to Mass.        20
Here schoolboys lingered in the way,
    Here the bent packman laboured by,
And lovers at the end o’ the day
    Whispered their secret blushingly.
A goodly road for simple needs,        25
    An avenue to praise and paint,
Kept by fair use from wreck and weeds,
    Blessed by the shrine of its own saint.
The road that runs up to Messines!
    Ah, how we guard it day and night!        30
And how they guard it, who o’erween
    A stricken people, with their might!
But we shall go up to Messines
    Even thro’ that fire-defended gate.
Over and thro’ all else between        35
    And give the highway back its state.


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