November 11, 2007

Remembrance Day 2007

Leslie Coulson (1889-1916), a Reuters correspondent for London's Morning Post, volunteered for the Royal Fusiliers within a month of the outbreak of World War I. On Christmas Eve, 1914, he sailed for Malta on a troop ship, never to return to England.

He survived a bout of the mumps (which inspired his first war poem, A Soldier in Hospital) and then the Battle of Gallipoli, where he was injured slightly. Sgt. Coulson wrote Who Made the Law, below, while in the trenches at the western front. He was shot in the chest at the Battle of the Somme, October 1916, and died at a casualty clearing station. He was 27. He is buried at Grove Town Cemetery at Meaulte, France.

1n 1917, Leslie Coulson's father compiled his son's poetry into a volume entitled From an Outpost and Other Poems. The book sold 10,000 copies in its first year alone.

Who Made the Law
by Leslie Coulson

Who made the Law that men should die in shadows?
Who spake the word that blood should splash in lanes?
Who gave it forth that gardens should be bone-yards?
Who spread the hills with flesh, and blood, and brains?
Who made the Law?

Who made the Law that Death should stalk the village?
Who spake the word to kill among the sheaves,
Who gave it forth that death should lurk in hedgerows,
Who flung the dead among the fallen leaves?
Who made the Law?

But who made the Law? the Trees shall whisper to him:
"See, see the blood -- the splashes on our bark!"
Walking the meadows, he shall hear bones crackle,
And fleshless mouths shall gibber in silent lanes at dark.
Who made the Law? At noon upon the hillside
His ears shall hear a moan, his cheeks shall feel a breath,
And all along the valleys, past gardens, croft, and homesteads,
He who made the Law,
He who made the Law,
He who made the Law
shall walk along with Death.
Who made the Law?

—But a Short Time to Live
by Leslie Coulson

Our little hour, — how swift it flies
When poppies flare and lilies smile;
How soon the fleeting minute dies,
Leaving us but a little while
To dream our dream, to sing our song,
To pick the fruit, to pluck the flower,
The Gods — They do not give us long, —
One little hour.

Our little hour, — how short it is
When Love with dew-eyed loveliness
Raises her lips for ours to kiss
And dies within our first caress.
Youth flickers out like wind-blown flame,
Sweets of today tomorrow sour,
For Time and Death, relentless, claim
Our little hour.

Our little hour, — how short a time
To wage our wars, to fan our hates,
To take our fill of armoured crime,
To troop our banners, storm the gates.
Blood on the sword, our eyes blood-red,
Blind in our puny reign of power,
Do we forget how soon is sped
Our little hour?

Our little hour, — how soon it dies:
How short a time to tell our beads,
To chant our feeble Litanies,
To think sweet thoughts, to do good deeds.
The altar lights grow pale and dim,
The bells hang silent in the tower —
So passes with the dying hymn
Our little hour.

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