01 January 2017

'The New Year comes white-winged, unstained, a star...'

Century-old jingoism to begin a New Year by Minnie Henrietta Bethune Hallowell Bowen (1861-1942) of Sherbrooke, Quebec, from John W. Garvin's anthology Canadian Poems of the Great War (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1918). During the conflict, Mrs Bowen served as President of the Sherbrooke Patriotic Association.


Canada's National Service

          The New Year comes white-winged, unstained, a star
               Loosed from God's hand across a world of night!
          What thoughts await its coming from afar?
               What deeds shall quicken in its unknown light?

          All Time is God's — to give and to withhold!
               To men the power is given to use or waste —
          To turn the passing splendour into gold,
               Lasting and beautiful — or bid it haste.

          Dearer than jewels — bought with holiest blood —
               Are these few months God-given to our hand
          By Him whose might held back the threatening flood
               There at the Marne, that we might arm and stand.

          The grey tide swells apace — the nations fall
               Before its pitiless, embracing lust!
          Here at the threshold of another year —
               Still with God's gift of time — we face our trust!

          The bells are ringing in the quivering towers —
               The chimes are calling over glistening snow.
          The year is dawning in its awful powers —
               The hours are coming and the hours must go!

          These few, small days may be the last that wait
               On our decision! Riven ears may know
          The iron thunders of approaching Fate
               That closes Mercy's door and arms the Foe.

          Dear blood, outpoured for love of God and Man,
               Has drenched the far-off altar with its red,
          And heavenly fire that through the trenches ran
               Has wrapped the lives that suffered in our stead.

          How can we give enough — since they have died?
               Since they have lived — shall we not greatly live
          And know in life or death with holy pride
               No wealth of service is too much to give?

          The Call to Service! ringing loud and clear
               Beats in the angel pinions overhead —
          Still time is given that deadened ears may hear
               Before the final word of doom is said.

          Work! for humanity's sublimest goal!
               Fight! in a cause too great to be denied!
          Hear! for the Dead are speaking to your soul!
               Wake! for God calls the Nation to His side!

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