Songs of War

Song Cycle by Elaine Hugh-Jones (b. 1927)

Word count: 376

1. Futility [sung text not yet checked]

Move him into the sun -
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields [unsown]1.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning, and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know. 

Think how it wakes the seed -
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved - still warm - too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break [earth's]2 sleep at all?

Authorship

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Futilité", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)
First published in Nation, 1918
1 in some editions, "half-sown"
2 Rands: "the earth's"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. The unreturning [sung text not yet checked]

Suddenly night crushed out the day and hurled
Her remnants over cloud-peaks, thunder-walled.
Then fell a stillness such as harks appalled
When far-gone dead return upon the world.

There watched I for the Dead; but no ghost woke.
Each one whom Life exiled I named and called.
But they were all too far, or dumbed, or thralled,
And never one fared back to me or spoke.

Then peered the indefinite unshapen dawn
With vacant gloaming, sad as half-lit minds,
The weak-limned hour when sick men's sighs are drained.
And while I wondered on their being withdrawn,
Gagged by the smothering Wing which none unbinds,
I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. I saw his round mouth's crimson [sung text not yet checked]

I saw his round mouth's crimson deepen as it fell,
       Like a Sun, in his last deep hour;
Watched the magnificent recession of farewell,
       Clouding, half gleam, half glower,
And a last splendour burn the heavens of his cheek.
       And in his eyes
The cold stars lighting, very old and bleak,
       In different skies.

Authorship

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. The end [sung text not yet checked]

After the blast of lightning from the East,
The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot Throne;
After the drums of time have rolled and ceased,
And by the bronze west long retreat is blown,

Shall life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will He annul, all tears assuage? -
[Or fill these void veins full again with youth]1,
And wash, with an immortal water, Age?

When I do ask white Age he saith not so:
"My head hangs weighed with snow."
And when I hearken to the Earth, she saith:
"My fiery heart shrinks, aching. It is death.
Mine ancient scars shalls not be glorified,
Nor my titanic tears, the sea, be dried."

Authorship

See other settings of this text.

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "La fin", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)

First published in the Saturday Westminster Gazette, 1919.

1 Britten: "Fill the void veins of Life again with youth"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]