La Patrie

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Through storm--blown gloom the subtle light persists;
Shapes of tumultuous, ghostly cloud appear,
Trailing a dark shower from hill--drenching mists:
Dawn, desolate in its majesty, is here.

But ere the wayside trees show leaf and form
Invisible larks in all the air around
Ripple their songs up through the gloom and storm,
As if the baulked light had won wings of sound!

A wounded soldier on his stretcher waits
His turn for the ambulance, by the glimmering rails;
He is wrapped in a rough brown blanket, like his mates:
Over him the dawn broadens, the cloud pales.

Muscular, swart, bearded, and quite still,
He lies, too tired to think, to wonder. Drops
From a leaf fall by him. For spent nerve and will
The world of shattering and stunned effort stops.

He feels the air, song--thrilled and fresh and dim
And close about him smells the rainy soil.
It is ever--living Earth recovers him,
Friend and companion of old, fruitful toil.

He is patient with her patience. Hurt, he takes
Strength from her rooted, still tenacities.
The will to heal, that secretly re--makes,
Like slumber, holds his dark, contented eyes.

For she, though--never reckoning of the cost--
Full germs of all profusion she prepares,
Knows tragic hours, too, parching famine, frost,
And wreck; and in her children's hurt she shares.

Build what we may, house us in lofty mind's
Palaces, wean the fine--wrought spirit apart,
Earth touches where the fibre throbs, and winds
The threads about us of her infinite heart.

And some dear ground with its own changing sky,
As if it were our feeling flesh, is wrought
Into the very body's dignity
And private colour of least conscious thought.

O when that loud invader burned and bruised
This ordered land's old kindness, with brute blows
Shamed and befouled and plundered and abused,
Was it not Earth that in her soldier rose

And armed him, terrible and simple? He
Takes his wound, mute as Earth is, yet as strong.--
The funeral clouds trail, wet wind shakes the tree,
But all the wild air of the dawn is song.

© Robert Laurence Binyon