Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, YPRES, by RONALD GORELL BARNES



Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

YPRES, by            
First Line: City of stark desolation
Last Line: Built in the heart of man.
Alternate Author Name(s): Gorell, 3d Baron
Subject(s): World War I; Ypres, Belgium; First World War


CITY of stark desolation,
Infinite voices of silence,
Crying aloud in the daytime,
Whispering shrill in the moonlight,
Ask of the world, appealing:
"What are you now but a name?"

Hushed are your streets, and the rumble
Of lorries and wagons and limbers
And low, dull tread of battalions,
Moving stubbornly cheerful
Back of invisible fighters
Muddily bedded in Flanders—
These alone for your roadways,
And these for the hours of darkness.
Wide to inscrutable heaven
Lie, in their ruin all equal,
Houses and hovels abandoned,
Windowless yawnings and pillars,
Chasms and doorways and gables,
Tottering spectres of brickwork
Strewn through the naked chambers—
Never a home for the seeking,
Not through the whole of the city,
Save for the spirit-fled body.
And over the breakage and rubble,
Furious wastage of warfare,
Rise in their piteous grandeur,
Oaks still battling the tempest,
Riven and broken Cathedral,
Shattered, half-pinnacled Cloth-Hall,
Towers of solemn, gray greatness
Calling on heaven to witness,
Listening, steadfastly watchful,
For boom that will herald disaster
Down on their remnants of glory,
Asking the world appealing:
"What are we now but a name?"

City of wanton destruction,
Standing nakedly awful,
Token of agonized country,
When was an answer demanded
In so relentless a silence?
How can the asking be empty?
Name and naught else in your ruins,
Crowned in the heart as an emblem,
Child of the ravenous booming,
Page of heroical story,
Greatest in still desolation,
Never in all your peace-slumber
Garnered you fame as in fury.
Silent mother of splendour,
Stand when your ruins have crumbled
And, sinking to soil of Flanders,
Merged with the valiant sleepers;
And after that and for always,
As long as the breath of men's honour
Is to the earth as the springtime,
Speak with your voices undying;—
How in the anguish and glory
Belgium and Britain you stood for,
World of men's honour undaunted
Just in the lines round your city,
Where the fierce waves of ambition,
Ruthlessly seeking their purpose,
Sank with the dead into Flanders.
Desolate spirit unconquered,
Here where the fury lingered,
Here where the graves of the honoured
Around your ruins are clustered,
Rise in your triumph eternal,
Built in the heart of man.





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