Learning Curve, The Great War
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Transcript: Source2
Poem written by Gilbert Frankau called 'The Voice of the Guns', 1916
The Poetical Works of Gilbert Frankau Volume 1 (1901-1916), published by Chatto and Windus, 1923, by permission of A.P. Watt Ltd on behalf of Timothy D'Arch Smith)
THE VOICE OF THE GUNS

We are the guns, and your masters! Saw ye our flashes?
Heard ye the scream of our shells in the night, and the shuddering crashes?
Saw ye our work by the roadside, the shrouded things lying,
Moaning to God that He made them - the maimed and the dying?
Husbands or sons,
Fathers or lovers, we break them. We are the guns!

We are the guns and ye serve us. Dare ye grow weary,
Steadfast at night-time, at noon-time; or waking, when dawn winds blow dreary
Over the fields and the flats and the reeds of the barrier-water,
To wait on the hour of our choosing, the minute decided for slaughter?
Swift, the clock runs;
Yea, to the ultimate second. Stand to your guns!

We are the guns, and we need you; here, in the timbered
Pits that are screened by the crest, and the copse where at dusk ye unlimbered;
Pits that one found us - and, finding, gave life (Did he flinch from the giving?);
Laboured by moonlight when wraith of the dead brooded yet o'er the living;
Ere, with the sun's
Rising, the sorrowful spirit abandoned its guns.

Who but the guns shall avenge him? Battery - Action!
Load us and lay to the centremost hair of the dial's refraction;
Set your quick hands to our levers to compass the sped soul's assoiling;
Brace your taut limbs to the shock when the thrust of the barrel recoiling
Deafens and stuns!
Vengeance is ours for our servants: trust ye the guns!

Least of our bond-slaves or greatest, grudge ye the burden?
Hard, is this service of ours which has only our service for guerdon:
Grow the limbs lax, and unsteady the hands, which aforetime we trusted;
Dominant ones,
Are we not tried serfs and proven - true to our guns?

Ye are the guns! Are we worthy? Shall not these speak for us,
Out of the wood where the tree-trunks are slashed with the vain bolts that seek for us,
Thunder of batteries firing in unison, swish of shell flighting,
Hissing that rushes to silence and breaks to the thud of alighting;
Death that outruns
Horseman and foot? Are we justified? Answer, O guns!

Yea! by your works are ye justified -- toil unrelievéd;
Manifold labours, co-ordinate each to the sending achievéd;
Discipline, not of the feet but the soul, unremitting, unfeignéd;
Tortures unholy by flame and by maiming, known, faced, and distainéd;
Courage that shuns
Only foolhardiness; even by these, are ye worthy your guns.

Wherefore, - and unto ye only - power hath been given;
Yea! beyond man, over men, over desolate cities and riven;
Yea! beyond space, over earth and the seas and the sky's high dominions;
Yea! beyond time, over Hell and the fiends and the Death-Angel's pinions.
Vigilant ones,
Loose them, and shatter, and spare not. We are the guns!

[guerdon = reward]
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