WILLIAM WINTER’S POEM ON THE WAR
In the Sunday edition of the New York Times unusual space and prominence are given to a poem by William Winter entitled “My England”. It is one of the most stirring things that has come from an American pen since the beginning of the war, and on that account is published at length in this column. It seems almost an impertinence to introduce Mr. Winter to any audience, so widely is he known as a dramatic critic, student of the drama and essayist. So far as the writer is aware, however, he has not often ventured into poetry, but, like many other in many lands, he has been deeply stirred by the war that has found in verse his only adequate means of expression. As a dramatic critic, it is probably true that Mr. Winter has exerted a greater influence upon on the American stage in the past generation than any other writer. He has also an international reputation as a student of Shakespeare. The fact that he is an American, of course, [makes his?] utterance on the war more remarkable. This is his poem:
MY England! Not my native land,
But dear to me as if she were –
How often have I longed to stand
With those brave hearts who fight for her!
Bereft by Fortune, worn with Age,
My life is all I have to give,
But freely would that life engage –
For those who die that she may live.
Mother of Freedom! Pledged to Right!
From Honor's path she would not stray.
But, sternly faithful, used her might
To lead mankind the nobler way.
Her task was hard, her burden great
But 'round the world her edict ran
That reared and ruled a Sovereign State
Securely on the Rights of Man.
No vandal foot should tread her land
No despot hold her realm in awe;
The humblest peasant should command '
The shelter of her righteous law.
In vain her lion port was braved!
Her pennant streamed o'er ev'ry sea,
And wheresoe’er her ensign waved
All fetters fell and Man was free.
Today be all her faults forgot –
The errors of her nascent prime,
Or wily politician's plot,
Or blunder that was almost crime.
Today, when desperate tyrants strain,
By Greed, and Fear, and Hate combined,
To blast her power and rend her reign.
She fights the fight of all mankind
She fights for us – for this fair clime,
Our home belov'd, where freemen dwell,
Columbia, grandest born of Time,
That Teuton malice burns to quell.
My England! should the hope be crost
In which she taught the world to strive.
Then all of Virtue would be lost
And naught of Manhood left alive.
But 'tis not in the Book of Doom
That Justice, Honor, Truth, should fail.
That earth be made a living tomb,
And only brutal Wrong prevail.
It cannot be the human race,
Long struggling up to Freedom's sun.
Is destined to the abject place
Of vassal to the murd'rous Hun!
In ev'ry land that knows the ills
Of Bondage, and has borne its aches.
The deathless pulse of Freedom thrills
And Reason's noble rage awakes.
See splendid Italy advance,
And grimly issuing from his lair,
To grasp the hand of glorious France,
Stalk forth th’ intrepid Russian bear!
My England ! – patient, valiant, true !
Nor foes without, nor frauds within
Will shake her purpose to subdue
The cohorts of embattled sin;
The swinish horde, the gilded beasts.
In whom no touch of truth survives,
Who ravish women, murder priests.
And strew the sea with infant lives;
The Lords of War, who kill and maim.
Exultant, while their people groan.
Steeping themselves in crime and shame,
To keep a despot on his throne
That pigmy, to whose 'wildered brain
Himself an Attila appears.
Who takes the name of God in vain.
And drowns the earth in blood and tears!
My England, strike! Droop not, nor pause,
Till triumph on your banners shine!
Then take a grateful world's applause –
Millions of hearts that beat like mine.