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Cross Roads by Margaret E. Sangster

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The utter faith that is the nation's heart;
They could not bring a real destruction where
Hymn music had been softly wont to play!
They smothered beauty, and tore hope apart;
But in the house of One who is supreme,
The marks they left will now be sanctified;
The broken walls, when war is but a dream,
Will be a monument to those who died;
And every shell-torn scar will stand for One
Whose hands were scarred, the Christ men crucified!

I think, perhaps, the very morning sun,
Will slant more gently through the broken tower --
And, in good season, that some tender flower
Will bloom beside the ruined threshold, where
Folk paused before they entered in to prayer. . . .

CHILD FACES

Child faces saddened, older than they should be,
And wiser than a lived-out span of years;
One wonders what those self same faces would be,
If they had never looked on pain -- if tears
Had never been their portion; if the morrow,
Had never held the pallid ghost of care --
Child faces, graven deep with worlds of sorrow,
Until the light of childhood is not there!

Child faces, once agleam with carefree laughter,
Wide eyes, where smiles like baby rainbows grew;
They are the heritage of ever after,
They are the dreams that never will come true.
They are the words of fate that have been spoken,
And when the tumult of the war is gone,
They will remind a world that hearts were broken,
For, in their souls, France goes to meet her dawn!

AFTER HEARING MUSIC COMING FROM A
DEVASTATED FARMHOUSE

Just a little wisp of song played softly in the twilight,
Such a happy little song -- and oh, the dusk is gray!
Such a joyous little song, and oh, the night is
coming --
Coming with the bitter chill that marks the death
of day.

Almost like a dance it is, it holds no hint of sorrow,
Almost like a waltz it is, to set the pulse a-thrill;
Not a hint of tears in it -- and oh, the night is
coming --
Coming like a purple shroud across the purple hill!
Sad the little farmhouse is, the doors swing on their
hinges,
All the windows look like wounds, pitiful and bare,
And a shell has torn a gash in the broken roof of it,
But the music lilts along like a happy prayer.

Do pale ghostly fingers play on a ghostly violin?
(War has swept the countryside of the songs it
knew!)
Merry is the little tune -- not a wistful questioning --
Merry with a rosy thrill of a dream come true.

Just a little wisp of song played softly in the twilight,
Such a happy little song -- and oh, the dusk is gray!
Such a joyous little song, and oh, the night is
coming --
Coming with the bitter chill that marks the death
of day!

RETURN

Now that the tumult of the war is over,
The fairy folk are coming back to France;
They push their way through tangled grass and
clover,
To find the ring where once they used to dance.
They come half-wistfully, the little people,
Through broken town, and battered market place,
They come past shell-torn church with shattered
steeple,
They come as smiles come to a tear-stained face.

They come with packs of dreams, with love and
laughter,
They come with songs rolled snugly up in sacks;
They come with promises for ever after,
Tied neatly into bundles on their backs!
They bring the seeds of magic so that flowers,
The flowers of new happiness and mirth,
May bloom, once more, in sweet enchanted bowers,
Above the heart-ache of a tortured earth.

Now that the angry powder smoke has vanished,
The fairy folk are coming as of yore,
The fairy folk that hate and war had banished . . .
They pause beside a loosely swinging door,
To set it right on hinges that were breaking,
They lift an old rag doll with tender care,
And hurry on -- because their hearts are aching,
For one-time childish faces that were there.

They cross forgotten meadows in the gloaming,
Through forest aisles at even-time they creep;
Where trenches were, their little feet are roaming,
And where the heroes of the conflict sleep,
They stop, a moment, wistful -- and their singing
Dies down into the semblance of a prayer;
And tiny bells in far-off elf land ringing,
Sound, like a silver promise, on the air.

NOW THAT THE TUMULT OF THE WAR IS OVER,
ONCE MORE THE COUNTRY WAKENS TO ROMANCE;
FOR, THROUGH THE TANGLE OF THE GRASS AND CLOVER,
THE FAIRY FOLK ARE COMING BACK TO FRANCE.

THE PHOENIX

The ruined wheat fields lying in the sun
Will smile again, e'er many seasons pass;
The crooning breeze will sway the golden grass,
The way it did before a blazing gun,
Mowed down the meadow poppies in red heaps;
And battered villages will rise anew,
And homes will stand where one-time gardens grew,
And, in dim forests where an army sleeps,
The little birds will sing their evening songs,
The way they did before a blasting rain,
Of shrapnel cut their tiny nests in twain;
For France will rise, triumphant, from her wrongs --

Yes, France will rise once more in faith, and pave
Her roads anew with shattered stones of life,
Her songs will rise, once more, above the strife --
But what about the hearts that gave -- and gave!

A PRAYER ON EASTER FOR OUR BOYS
KILLED IN ACTION

Dear God, they will not come again, those lads of
ours,
Who went to fight with honor's foe across the sea --
Who died with eyes set straight ahead, amid the
showers
Of shrapnel, as they cleared a path to victory,
They will not come again . . . And it is Easter
weather,
And all the world is waking to the call of life,
But they lie sleeping, Over There, our lads, together,
Who died before their hearts could know the end
of strife.

Dear God, they will not come again, those lads of
ours,
Who left this land so gallantly to do their best --
And so I ask that You will send gay springtime
flowers,
To deck each shell-torn meadow where their bodies
rest.
I ask that You will let them hear the joyous singing,
Of some deep-throated bird whose heart tones
throb and swell;
God, let them feel the thrill that Easter time is
bringing,
That death is only life asleep -- and all is well!
AMEN.

INDEPENDENCE DAY -- 1919

Over the mists of a century they come, and their
tramping feet
Are light as the dust on the broad highway, or the
wind that sways in the wheat;
Out of the haze of the years between their shadowy
hands stretch wide
To welcome the heroes home again who have fought
for their cause and died.

They went to battle at Concord Bridge, and they fell
on Bunker Hill;
The odds were great, but they struggled on with a
stubborn Yankee will;
They lay in the fields at Lexington when the sun in
the west was red,
And the next year's violets grew on the spot where
their valiant blood was shed.

But they won in the end -- with their broken guns
and without much food to spare,
Won at the end of a bitter war, by means that they
knew were fair;
And some of them wandered back to their plows, and
some lay wrapped in the loam,
And slept the sleep of the fearless heart that has
fought at home -- for home!

Fought for their homes, at home, they did -- but these
other boys today
Fought for the homes of stranger folk three thousand
miles away;
FOUGHT FOR THE HONOR OF THE WORLD, and were not
afraid to die
In a muddy trench, in a foreign land, and under a
foreign sky!

They fought on the Marne, at Belleau Wood; they
swept through the mad Argonne;
Chateau-Thierry was theirs to take; they took it and
then surged on;
And now that the fight they fought is won, though
they lie in a far-off grave,
Their souls come back to the land they loved -- the
land that they LEFT to save.

And so, through the damp of the sorry sea, through
the wreck of the shell-torn plain,
They are coming back to homes they loved -- they
are coming back again!
And light as the wind that sways in the wheat, or
the dust on the broad highway,
They march to their rendezvous with the ones who
died in the yesterday.

SHADOWS

You come to me at twilight, when the others,
Are laughing in the fullness of their joy;
When glad-eyed women folk, when wives and mothers,
Are welcoming some other bronze-cheeked boy.
You come to me, all silent, in the gloaming,
A shadow form, with curly shadow hair --
And, dear, I somehow feel that you are roaming
Between two shadow worlds -- the Here and There.

They ask me, do those others, why I wander
Down dewy lanes, alone, at eventide --
They do not know my heart's a shadow -- yonder. . .
They do not know that part of me has died.
They do not know that your dear presence stands
Just out of reach with misty, wide-flung hands!

L'ENVOI

Only we two, dear . . . and the candlelight,
Seems to be softer than it was before,
Country and city, vivid dream lands, war --
Dear, they are very far from us to-night!

Woven of promise from life's golden loom,
Pale threads of light have bound us heart to heart;
Laughter and sorrow -- they are things apart --
ALL OF OUR WORLD IS IN THIS LITTLE ROOM.

Outside the branches sway, and winter weather
Sweeps, with a cry of triumph, through the land
Dear, it is springtime, when you touch my hand --
Only we two, and magic, here together!

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