Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WOMEN'S WAR THOUGHTS, by MARY HUNTER AUSTIN



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WOMEN'S WAR THOUGHTS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Wake, o woman!
Last Line: Made this war, I wonder!
Subject(s): Mothers; War; Women


THE TRUMPETS:
Wake, O Women!

A WOMAN AT THE WINDOW:
Oh, no more for women
Shall the trumpets tear their throats!

No more the white riders,
Strong thewed and breastless
Come reiving and raiding.
We modern women are undone by our own preciousness.
Like viols of few strings
Plucked at by lovers in their silken intervals,
Live in the prelude to our womanness.
Our music seldom swings
From the apassionata's opening phrases
Into the star-built theme of mastery.

Not even like the Spartan women,
Guardians of the Gate whereby life entering is made man
By virtue of that clean divinity
That lives in women's flesh.
Not ours to turn,
Whose sons return not
Borne on their shields or bearing them,
To rear a sterner offspring to our conquerors.
Trumpets sound, and summoning drums.
Our sons are too much ours!
Too much the child, that means,
Too prone to keep us
The condoning lap, the leaned on bosom,
The ever pleased spectator of their plays
Filling the gaps with ready make believe.
We talk of giving,
Who cannot throb to world adventure
Save through the still unsevered stalk of being.
Who suffer, deep in the womb of our affection,
Perpetual pangs of parturition.

Suddenly the drums
Quicken the male pulse of the world,
The questing trumpets
Seek out the part of them that is not us,
And with a sword
Time heals us of a too prolonged maternity.
Flags go by, and the tips of bayonets, passing the window in full
procession.
Strange they should look so much alike!

I cannot find my son's
Among the lean brown shanks,
Crossing and uncrossing like the shears of Atropos
To cut the thread of over-ripe autocracy.
Nor trace the alien strains
Gave rise to that steel glinting river,
Frothed bright with banners.

What tongues do trumpets speak,
Welding all men into one moving unit?

Women are welded at heart
By the rhythm of rocking cradles.
World-wide, they are starting awake to feel if one is well covered,
Who at that moment may be lying stark in the trenches.
Women of any nation,
For the sake of a long sheared curl
Between two leaves of a prayer book,
Will weep on each other's shoulders.
But the word of the trumpet to men
Is the seed of a forthright intention.
The drums go by, and the Allied banners.
When I was young, my son,
I dreamed of a life exempted as yours is today,
From the claims of the past and the present,
A tiny, two-penny candle to burn on the altar of Now.

But the cant of a world made sleek by soul stroking phrases,
Offered your life for mine.
As though your life were a thing I could make
For my soul's diversion,
To dangle before my mind
And quiet its hunger.
Oh, my son, how times like these give the lie
To that smug maternal illusion!

VOICES OF YOUNG SOLDIERS (singing):
Land, my Land!
Thy sons are going
Where like a wind from the west we feel God blowing
Kings from their seats and Empire from its stays.
Land where the Vision blessed our fathers,
Perfect in us thy praise!

THE WOMAN (repeating the word of the inner Voice):
. . . You are no more to the making
Than the nozzle is to the fountain.
I am the source and the stream
And the deeps to which I have called him.
I will drink up the life of your son
To quicken my harvest.
I will take up his life and lay it
To the lips of my larger purpose,
Trumpeting forth my power,
And my will to Freedom . . .

YOUNG SOLDIERS (singing):
Land, my Land!
Thy sons go singing
Forth to the work of our God, our lives free flinging
Nothing withholden or scamped, for thy sake;
Land, by whose voice the larger Freedom
Has called the world awake!

THE WOMAN (muses):
Life that passed through us,
Did it leave no tang of the man strain, mordant, unruly . . .
The Red Cross nurses go by.
Yonder the barren women . . .
Women whose breasts are scarcely grown
But whose hearts are steadied with skill,
Will sit on the Pit's red edge
And hold back death with laughter.

Bite back the moan in your throat, O my son,
If the shrapnel tears you.
Lest the unwed women say
I was too woman-soft when I shaped you,
I that am left to hand-waving, balcony service!
The music grows faint in the distance.
Why should we weep
Who taught them to follow the music;
We who attuned them
To feints, pursuits, and surprises?
Have we ever denied them the game that we should wonder
When they go roaring forth to hunt one another?

Blood . . .

There is no virtue in blood . . .
Any woman will tell you!

Torn flesh . . . and a gay endurance . . .
I did as much for you in the bearing.
War is a sickness sucked from your shiny toy maleness.
When your teeth have met on hard metal awhile
You will be cured of your sickness.

. . . And then
We will go back to our playing,
Sally, retreat, and ambush, handling and stroking,
Till Peace is choked with the rising scum
Of our passionate prepossessions.

Was it you or I, son,
Made this war, I wonder!





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