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The Man Forsworn

William Watson 1858 (Burley in Wharfedale) – 1935 (Rottingdean)

Who draws to-day the unrighteous sword?
Behold him stand, the Man Forsworn,
The warrior of the faithless word,
The pledge disowned, the covenant torn,
Who prates of honour, truth, and trust,
Ere he profanes them in the dust.

When to yon fabric grey in fame,
That Windsor lifts against the sky,
In martial cloak the Kaiser came,
We did not dream it cloaked a spy;
Yet there he sat, as now we know,
A guest, a kinsman, and a foe.

France was a gallant foe and fair,
That looked us proudly in the face,
With her frank eyes and freeborn air,
And valour half-concealed in grace.
Noblest of all with whom we strove,
At last she gives us noble love.

But he that took our proffered hand,
Thinking to take our birthright too,
He, in this hospitable land,
Bore him as only dastards do.
Here, where the Earth still nurtures men,
His hand shall soil not ours again.

We know his people great and strong;
On such as these we cast no slur;
Our wonder is that they so long
Suffer ungalled his bit and spur.
'Tis with no heart of joy that we
Arise to smite them on the sea.

Glory we count of lesser worth
Than wife and babe and hearth and home;
Theirs is the mandate speeding forth
Our steps of thunder on the foam;
For them we fight, for them we stand,
Yea, and for faith 'twixt land and land.

You that have linked your might with ours,
To break his pride who breaks the laws,
You wear today, 'mid perjured Powers,
The armour of a spotless cause;
Your legions march in Truth arrayed,
And knightly Honour whets your blade.

From Baltic or Biscayan shores
Where Loire to the Atlantic runs;
Where Volga to the Caspian pours,
You have not poured in vain your sons.
From laughing lands of Rhone and Seine
You have not poured your sons in vain.

Let us a League of Man proclaim
Against such knavery 'neath a crown
As would be rightly held to shame
A swineherd and his fellow clown.
Shall all the false and creeping things
Find a last refuge among Kings?

At least on this unageing throne,
That baffles the long siege of Time,
We have a monarch of our own
To whom a crime is still a crime;
And pure in aim there sits afar
The patient, silent, storm-worn Czar.

For one sole mortal it remained,
One rash insulter of the Earth,
To teach the world wherein he reigned
How much a Kaiser's word is worth.
A Kaiser's word, a Caitiff's vow!
Well have we learned their value now.

Over the bland and kindly Day,
Unseasonable Night he flings;
Sinister darkness blear and grey,
A horror of malignant wings.
Pain and red havoc he bestows
On them that only asked repose.

He is not hungrier for your lands
Than he is thirsty for your seas.
Smite him with all your thunderous hands,
Fight him and smite him to his knees --
You that on him and falsehood hurled
Shall guard the fortress of the world.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:37 min read

William Watson

William Watson, was a surgeon in the 105th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers during the American Civil War. more…

All William Watson poems | William Watson Books

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