SONGS FROM THE
The Soul of the A.E.F.
A collection of verses by
American Soldiers in France
brought together by
HERBERT ADAMS GIBBONS
from Poems submitted in
The Prize Competition of
THE NEW YORK HERALD
Harper 5? Brothers Publishers
New York and London
SONGS FROM THE TRENCHES
Copyright, 1893, 1918, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America
Published September, 1918
The Memory of
The First American SoZdier Poet
who gave his life in France
FROM THE AUTHORS xv
OUR MISSION 3
THE CRUSADER 4
FAREWELL, AMERICA! 7
FACING THE SHADOWS 9
A MODERN CRUSADER 10
OUR LADS n
THE SHADOW 15
THE LOVER RETURNS TO PARIS 16
WAR AND WOMEN . . . 18
ROISEL ROAD 20
THE VAILLY ROAD 22
THE AIRPLANE 25
THE AIR TRAILS 29
A VISION OF Two NATIONS 30
A SONNET ON PROGRESS 34
LITTLE PAL o' MINE 35
ON GUARD 40
THE SONGS THEY SANG IN THE TRENCHES ... 42
THE SOUL OF A SONG 44
SONG OF SPHERES 46
ONLY A NUMBER 48
I49TH U.S.F.A 51
THE NATIONAL GAME 53
AN INCIDENT 57
LITTLE PIERRE AND JUCUNDINE 59
THE SPIRIT OF FRANCE 62
NIGHT PATROL 65
SLACKER, THINK IT OVER! 67
ABOARD THE U. S. TRANSPORT S .... 69
You NEVER CAN TELL 71
HUNTIN' U-BOATS 73
THE GREASY ARMY COOKS 76
CHANT OF ARMY COOKS 79
I LOVE CORNED BEEF 82
ALEX BURR 85
OUR FIGHT 93
SOLDIERS, COME BACK CLEAN! 96
THERE Is No GOD 98
DEAR SISTER 101
MY AMERICA 105
[ viii ]
ONLY A LAD 106
THANKSGIVING DAY, 1917 108
LINGERING WINTER 109
SPRING COMES TO FRANCE 112
EASTER, 1918 114
"SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE" 116
PASSED AS CENSORED 120
GREAT INVENTIONS 122
JUST A LITTLE LETTER Now AND THEN . . . .125
THE THREE FATES 127
THE HUMMING-BIRDS OF FRANCE 129
THERE Is A CLOSE 131
AIN'T IT THE TRUTH? 132
A TOAST TO THE CHASSEURS 134
THE CHILD'S COMPLAINT 136
THE SONG OF THE CENSOR MAN 138
THE CENSOR 140
THE RAID 143
SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE 145
THE PHILOSOPHER 147
FATHER'S SON 151
THE SUN Is SHINING 154
A VOLUNTEER 157
I WANT TO Go HOME . . 159
THE TRANSPORT 161
JUST MUD 162
AN IRISHMAN IN THE Q. M. CORPS 165
To THE RECRUITIN' SERGEANT 168
THE DUGOUT 172
THE BOYS WHO LIVE IN THE GROUND .... 175
OUR HITCH IN HELL 177
CHEER UP 180
RED TAPE R.I.P 183
TWISTED SHAPES 186
LINES IN EXILE 189
WOULD I? 191
APRES LA GUERRE 193
THE AMERICAN ADVANCE 196
A PRAYER FROM THE RANKS 199
THE DEAD OF FRANCE 201
PEACE, AND WHEN? 204
PROMISE . 206
IN these poems, chosen from the thousand
submitted in the New York Herald's recent
Literary Competition, we get a glimpse of the
soul of the American Expeditionary Force.
Our boys in France have the sense of color, the
impulse to sing, and the ability to interpret
what they see. These qualities justify giving
permanent form to their verse. But the little
book is more than a collection of poems, a few
of which are brilliant and all of which are in-
teresting. It is a message from the American
soldiers abroad to the home folks, written on
the decks of transports, in French villages, in
muddy camps, in the trenches, beside cannon
or camion, in hospitals. Each writer speaks
for thousands of his fellows. And the form of
the message is that which youth loves to em-
ploy in framing the thoughts of the heart.
The publishers will turn over the royalties
to the funds for widows and orphans of seamen
who lost their lives in transporting the Amer-
ican Expeditionary Force. The permission to
reproduce ten of the poems was given by Mr.
James Gordon Bennett, who acquired their
copyright through the awards in the Literary
Competition. The other poems are contrib-
uted by their writers.
The compiler desires to express his thanks to
Messrs. Price, Westlake, and Hawkins, who
formed with him the New York Herald's jury,
and to Mrs. Margaret Deland, Mrs. Helen
Davenport Gibbons, and Miss Rachel W.
Latta, who helped select the poems for the
HERBERT ADAMS GIBBONS.
PARIS, Easter, 1918.
Paris, March 75, 1918.
To the Editor of the New York Herald
Dear Sir, The Herald, having mobilized a bat-
talion of poets, may not play the censor and withhold
from its readers the beauties suggested by the alluring
titles of twenty-two poems, assuredly of a high order.
My dear young countryman, in whose "singing heart"
was pent the music of his soaring verse, has deeply
stirred another voiceless, its strings yet vibrant to
the message of "Facing the Shadows" Our boys
having proved the temper of their pens, preluding
knightly deeds, shall not their songs be printed in a
book dedicate to their glorious forerunner, Alan
Seeger? This for the weal of them hurt and dispos-
sessed to the greater glory of the demoniac Kaiser.
FROM THE AUTHORS
To THE READER:
Very many New York Herald readers have
expressed their enthusiastic appreciation of the
poems published by us from among those sub-
mitted in the recent Literary Competition.
From civilians and soldiers alike the suggestion
has come that these poems and others that we
did not have space to publish be brought out
in book form. It has been decided to publish
a book of verse of the American Expeditionary
Force as a result of the Herald's competition.
Aside from the two prize poems and nine
others which were purchased by the Herald, a
large number of the poems submitted in the
competition have been selected by the judges
for publication in the collection of A. E. F.
The royalties of the book, which will be
dedicated to the memory of Alan Seeger, will
be devoted entirely to the funds for widows
and orphans of seamen who have lost their
lives in transporting the American Expedi-
tionary Force to France.
Under these circumstances, we feel sure that
our A. E. F. poets will grant permission to the
editors to use their poems in the collection of
A. E. F. verse.
SONGS FROM THE
THE day is come! The die is cast!
We sally forth in Titan mold,
With Titan strength from first to last,
The Rights of Mankind to uphold.
For none in fever-framed dream
E'er yet conceived nor shape nor form
Of man or monster but did seem
Humane to this which rides the storm.
So let us on! For ours the might
Wherewith to whelm the vulture down!
Aye, let us on! Ours is the right
To haste the harvest it has sown!
The day is come! The die is cast!
We sally forth in Titan mold,
With Titan strength from first to last
God grant our steel the edge of old.
Private Clifford B. Crescent,
5"?th Aero Squadron.
SAILING for France! My heart beats high
I've reached the crossroads, and have made
I've donned the new, and cast the old away;
Yes, DIEU LE VOLT, I, too, have heard the
Brave spirit of the past, thy words are true,
Guide thou my sword, for I have donned the
(En route to France, December 20, 1917)
RED tentacles upflung, the dying sun in ruddy
light incarnadines the west;
Low-flying o'er the crimson waves, the gulls
fold up their weary wings and drop to rest.
Broad strips of tinted ribbons strive to paint
the fretful restless waves in living light,
And Nature, calling all her forces round, pre-
pares to draw the curtain of the night.
A group of idlers, leaning o'er the rail, in
wonder gazed at Nature's majesty,
While each to each in rapture pointed out the
curious shapes their fancy made them see.
A great, dark scud-cloud, golden-tipped, be-
came a dauntless knight of former days;
Gray slating underneath was coat of mail; the
golden tip a plume that hid his face.
A charger gay with trappings pranced along
a path more beautiful than Norse e'er
Arched earth to heaven; and standing on
each side great million-windowed castles
glowed and gleamed.
One laughed in boisterous glee at some queer
shape that loomed fantastic through the
But e'er the rest could note the scene had
changed and o'er the sea an army marched
The scene was one of merriment and jest; a
care-free crowd that scanned what Nature
And, gazing joyously into the west, thought
not of what that glorious curtain hid.
But one there was who stood a pace apart and
looked through tear-drops o'er the tossing
The others saw the sunset, looking west; but
he pierced through the sunset and saw
Corporal Richard C. Colburn, F.A.,
2d Battery, Replacement Regiment,
41 st Division.
DIM grows the distant ridge of gray beyond
the waters' restless heave;
And so America fades away, the land that
holds the love I leave.
The mist that rises is not rain; no cloud across
the sky-line moves;
But he must feel a stab of pain who says good-
by to all he loves.
Sometimes the rushing course of life, its beat-
ing drums and bugle-calls,
The martial harmony of strife, into an awe-
some silence falls.
And then are heard its softer notes that
louder tones have rendered vain,
Bringing the sorrow to our throats with ten-
der cadences of pain.
The cheers are done; the shouting dies; comes
silence like a soft-toned hymn,
America like a far cloud lies and every minute
grows more dim.
I fear not death in lands afar nor any evil
that may come
To hurt my mortal flesh; but, ah, my land, my
children and my home!
Though with a bright and golden ray my
country smiles her last farewell,
The mists it cannot drive away that to the
eyes in sorrow swell.
And yet the love I leave has power my fate
and spirit to control,
And, rising in my danger's hour, its prayers
at least will arm my soul.
Private S. D. Regan,
Motor Truck Company No. I,
FACING THE SHADOWS 1
WHEN I behold the tense and tragic night
Shrouding the earth in vague, symbolic
And when I think that, ere my fancy's flight
Has reached the portals of the inner room
Where knightly ghosts, guarding the secret ark
Of brave romance, through me shall sing
Death may engulf me in eternal dark
Still I have no regret nor poignant pain.
Better in one ecstatic, epic day
To strike a blow for Glory and for Truth,
With ardent, singing heart to toss away
In Freedom's holy cause my eager youth,
Than bear, as weary years pass one by one,
The knowledge of a sacred task undone.
Private William I. Grundish,
Company C, i^th Engineers.
1 First prize in Herald competition.
A MODERN CRUSADER
NOR fame nor fortune I demand,
Nor guerdon for my holy task;
A crust, a shield, a flaming brand
And strength to fight is. all I ask.
Lord God of nations, whose command
All powers of earth and heaven obey,
Give strength unto my good right hand
And keep me strong from day to day.
Be with me, Lord, in freedom's fight,
With all who long for liberty,
Till despots die and sin takes flight
And all the whole wide world is free.
And if I fall before the foe
Ere peace come to the world again,
I die content, if I but know
My sacrifice is not in vain.
Frank Ravenscroft McCall,
Electrician Sergeant 2d Class,
6th Regiment, Coast Artillery Corps.
WHY so far from home, lads,
So far, so very far?
Surely you are not of those
Who journey toward a star!
There were Three, but they were old-
Wise and old and gray.
Why should you, when life is high,
Fare so far away?
They, the Three, so long ago,
Gray and wise and old,
Sought a King and brought Him gift
Incense, myrrh, and gold.
So far away from home, lads,
So far, so very far.
In your eyes I read the truth
You, too, seek the Star!
Though you come with song, lads,
You, too, seek the King.
Greater gifts than they, the Wise,
Unto Him you bring.
He could not bide at home, lads,
And, like Him, now you roam
So far, so far, oh, lads, dear lads,
To make the whole world Home!
Harry Lee y
Y. M. C. A.
'Tis strange it was not long ago
I sat and watched my mother sew,
And heard the drowsy hum and whir
Of wheel that flew in gleaming blur;
And sometimes busy scissors snipped
As seams were sewn or seams were ripped.
I often raised a dreamy look
Above my open story-book,
And while she worked her agile hands
My mother told me of the lands
Where cloths were made. I hear her say,
"This cambric came from far Cambrai."
It seems as if 'twere yesterday
She spoke of cambric and Cambrai
The city of the Prankish king
Where looms of magic weave and sing.
That fair old town of northern France
Was but one star in my romance.
The star was not so brilliant then,
But when I see the ranks of men
March past me to the front each day,
I think of cambric and Cambrai;
And every time a cannon booms
I think of Cambrai and her looms.
'Tis strange it was not long ago
I sat and watched my mother sew,
And heard her tell of far Cambrai,
And now our guns are turned that way.
It hurts me when a cannon booms;
I think of Cambrai and her looms.
Bugler Hubert W. Kelley,
Company D 9
J2th Railway Engineers.
THE SHADOW 1
WHERE green hills cut the opal sky
And black and white the magpies fly,
Cheerily with its saffron sails
The fleece of clouds the windmill flails,
Fanning white puffs in merry race
Into the red sun's jovial face.
Loisette and I, with rippling laughter,
And watchful mother trudging after,
Like children wander hand in hand
Amid this day-dream wonderland.
But up across the world's green rim,
From out a fringe of poplars slim,
Come horsemen trooping, and Loisette,
With quavering voice and lashes wet,
Speaks while her tears unminded flow:
"Our Jean returned two years ago
With eyes that could not see the sun
Nor yet the ribbon he had won."
Paul A. Tierney,
1 Second prize in Herald competition.
THE LOVER RETURNS TO PARIS
I SPRANG with open arms to greet
My love, my Paris. "Ah, my sweet,
I have returned to you!" I cried.
"Come laugh with me."
"Ah me! I cannot laugh," she sighed.
"But this is I and this is you,
And we are plighted lovers true.
Our gladness through the nights shall ring,
Come, sing with me."
"Heigho! I nevermore will sing."
"You move as though a fearful fate
Had sapped the litheness of your gait.
Well, I am here, and now perchance
You'll dance with me."
"Woe's me! I ne'er again will dance."
"Dear love, if you and I can be
Part of this wild cacophony,
And feel the pain and know the dread,
Why, we can love."
"Alas! I cannot love," she said.
If Paris could be gay again,
And sing anew her high refrain,
And dance and flirt with color mad,
The world would be a-bloom.
Can Paris evermore be glad?
American Red Cross.
WAR AND WOMEN
("A sword shall pierce through thine own heart also.")
IN the blue hush of eventide,
With only quiet winds astir,
Our Lady set Her windows wide
And heard the Voice that spoke to Her.
And through the months She pondered dumb,
And, all unknowing, wrought Her part
Until Her midnight hour was come
And Her Babe slept upon Her heart. . . .
Oh! Hers to clasp Her Baby fast,
To hear Him laugh, to watch Him run. . . .
And Hers to break Her heart at last
And watch them slay Her first-born Son.
And we, who dream of ravaged clay
And the torn limbs our flesh made good,
And we, who pass a dreamless way,
Forever starved of motherhood.
Oh, by the anguish suffered thus,
- Most piteous Handmaid of the Lord,
Mother of Sorrows! Pray for us,
Who bear within our hearts the sword!
Kathleen Montgomery Wallace,
Y. M, C. A.
I HAVE heard that gipsies dwell
Down the road to fair Roisel.
Tell me true, is this the way?
Surely I have gone astray.
I have heard that gipsy song
Rings the happy way along.
This is not the road, I know.
Why should they have told me so?
I have heard that magpies flew
Black and white in skies of blue.
Surely this is not the way;
Ravens wing the dismal gray.
I have heard the fields were all
Flowered as a gipsy shawl.
This is not the road they mean;
Not a blossom have I seen.
I have often heard them tell
Of the road to fair Roisel.
Nothing did they say, I know,
Of these crosses row on row.
Who has strung that tangled wire,
Blackened hedge and tree with fire?
Is it thunder that I hear?
This is not the road, I fear.
Not a thrill of laughter gay;
Surely this is not the way.
Tangled hedge and crumbled wall;
This is not the way at all.
There is not a gipsy throng,
Ne'er a strain from gipsy song;
Only ranks of marching men.
I must turn me back again.
Bugler Hubert W. Kelley,
I2th Railway Engineers.
THE VAILLY ROAD
THERE'S a winding road through Vailly,
Running up from Braine,
Past the woods of Chassemy
Across the river Aisne,
And up the hill to Hameret
Out on the Bascule Plain.
I knew the road before the war,
That far-off, happy day.
One saw the peasants in the fields,
The children at their play;
The women at the cottage door
Were smiling, cheerful, gay.
And now the road to Vailly
Is rutted, gutted, worn.
The trees that stood on either side
Are battered, tattered, torn.
The little rose-clad cottages
Are shattered, scattered, gone.
Along the road to Vailly
Is ruin, waste, and wrack.
We felt the big shells bursting,
We heard the rifles crack,
As foot by foot we conquered
And forced the vandal back.
I've seen the road at midnight,
Black shadows everywhere,
The great tanks going forward,
The sudden shocking glare
Of shrapnel bursting overhead,
While gas-shells taint the air.
Big guns and ambulances,
Troops marching to the fight,
Long trains of ammunition,
Pack-mules to left and right,
And all that feeds an army
Goes groping through the night.
I've seen the road at dawning.
The wounded, like a flood,
Came pouring from the battle,
Covered with clay and blood,
In twos and threes and hundreds,
Staggering through the mud.
French "poilu," English "Tommy,"
Irish and kilted "Scot,"
Black Senegalese and Arab,
Have left their bones to rot
Along the road to Vailly,
And made a hallowed spot.
WHAT strange device is this,
This thing of metal, wood, and cloth
So cunningly contrived, and gay with colors
Standing alone out on the grassy plain?
Inert and lifeless on its wheels and skid,
Flaunting its glitter to the sun and sky,
It seems some giant's toy rather than
The latest product of the mind of man.
But now they come, a swarm of little men,
Clustering around and laying grimy hands
On polished wood and shining metal parts.
Another, weirdly garbed in suit of fur,
With leathern helmet, mask, and goggled eyes,
Like some odd creature from another world,
Clambers aboard and seats himself with care
Almost concealed within the fabric there.
And now one comes and grasps the twisted
And with a sudden swing exerts his strength,
His puny human force, there in the face
Of that brute thing, that mass of steel and
When, lo! a miracle is wrought! Pulsating life
Is born, and from the heart of it
Bursts forth a mighty roar, a storm of sound,
So that the framework shakes and trembles on
Then bounding from their hands like some
Seeking escape from bonds intolerable,
It courses o'er the ground and leaps into the
Spurning the lowly earth. Up, up into the
It beats its forward way, until the mighty roar
Fades with the height into a distant drone,
A ceaseless hum, as if some monstrous bee
Warmed by the summer sun was flying free.
Thus, god-like, alone, the human being,
Loose from the fetters that for ages long
Have bound his kind to earth, rushes through
And with a touch controls the soaring planes;
Bends to his will the pent-up power that beats
With frenzied force against the steely walls,
Hurling each piston back until the screw
Cuts the clear air in wisps of vibrant blue.
Such is the miracle of flight; the latest proof
That, smoldering deep within the soul of man,
Half buried ofttimes by the clods which mark
Him still a beast, there lurks the sacred flame,
The will to shape this star dust at his feet
To serve his end, lifting himself thereby until,
Freed from his heritage of passion, fear, and
He mounts to better things, to richer, fuller life.
Gilbert N. Jerome,
$d Aviation Center.
WE are youth's heart made visible, who rise
On gleaming wings to greet the splendid sun,
Weary of earth's slow certainties, and run
Jousts with the elements to show our pride.
Last and most chosen chivalry, we meet
In single fight to win a single fame;
Sweep on victorious, or, defeated, pass
Like the archangels, trailing robes of flame.
Private Ralph Linton,
I49th Field Artillery.
THE AIR TRAILS
WE'LL always be flying and flying,
We'll always be shaking the dice,
We'll always be taking new chances,
With never a thought of the price.
For somehow the fever has got us,
The old life seems dull and tame,
And we long for the new adventure
Where the trails are never the same.
W. G. Schauffler, Jr.,
1st Aero Squadron, 5. C.
A VISION OF TWO NATIONS
IN the far west the setting sun's last gleams
Burst forth once more and flood each fleeting
Golden and silver, and with shimmering beams
Blood-red, white streamers light as fairy
Mingle and fade in the departing storm.
And now the sun has gone, but like a father
Leaves each small star as with his light
As from the hillside, plowed by the implements
Sown with death-dealing seed,
And with the trees pruned to death by the
sharpness of his breath,
I watched the scene.
Pictures arose in my mind's eye, kaleidoscopic,
I thought I saw that country stretched before
Where War has not yet stamped his feculent
Where mothers' hearts still beat in time,
And babes are safe, and young girls
Need not fear the foul touch of his turgid fingers.
This land I saw. Then
All the colors of the sky and sun blended,
and the stars:
And the Flag was there.
Red beams and stripes of red flashed
Before my eyes, and the wind chanted:
"Liberty! Blood! Blood shed for Liberty!"
The white streamers took their appointed
While the lonely crickets saw and chirped:
" Purity of purpose, now as in the past."
The stars flickered and twinkled: now two
or three, then increased to hundreds;
Then millions, as if called for testimony,
One million hearts
Beating for freedom, with freedom!
Soon it grew darker.
The shadows settled down upon the land.
The evening mist unrolled its blanket,
Fold by fold. But still over the tops of the
Lunging forth in the distance, shone
A red glare:
The Spirit of France. France,
Denuded of youth and sire, bleeding,
Swept with a hellish hail of destruction by those
Who scorn, mock, sneer, destroy
With wily talons hid in the gloves of War,
But like that Spirit the glare remained; red for
Liberty! Blood! Blood shed for Liberty!
Suddenly that, too, was gone, and like a finger
One beam shot toward the north and I seemed
"Oppression, depression, fear, hate. Those who
Let them beware lest they fall into the pit."
And the last words all were
Studded with stars!
Private Frederick W. Kurth,
American Mission, Motor Transport
Division, Reserve Mallet.
A SONNET ON PROGRESS
AH, when to-day shall be antiquity,
The crop of our adventures harvested;
When our fierce loves in withered silence lie,
And new life's sprung from passions that are
When all the cosmic beauty of our dreams,
Like husks that once contained a vital grain,
Is but an empty cenotaph which teems
With solemn memories of joy and pain;
When the wild, daring color of our art
Fades in the heap of mild experiments,
Our final wisdom chanted as a part
Of the fleet chronicle of past events
The moderns of that time will know that we
Were but mere weathercocks of destiny.
American Red Cross.
LITTLE PAL O' MINE
IT'S darkening fast, Little Pal o' Mine, and it's