A Father at the Grave of His Son by Wade Chance

Steady, heart, for here’s my journey’s end – earth’s end, for me
And this the door which closes once, and opens never –
These few unsodden clods of clay,
A shelter and a shade
To him who was, and is, my son.
To me a grave, to him the rainbow’s end.
Though Death make cowards of the living,
They know him not, the dead.

He the arrow, I the bow
Which launched his flight towards infinity.
That form of willow,
Those eyes more eager than the dawn,
With all their freshness and surprise!
To him was duty pleasure, pleasure joy,
And joy was gratitude.

And with him many parts I’ve played,
A perch for childhood clinging,
His boyhood’s anchor, in youth a shield,
And to his manhood’s dawn
An answering call.
And now am I an echo stilled,
A silent bell, a wave without a shore.

In him died out my name and line,
Ancestry’s sum of heritage
Back to the rim of Time.

And now he has the whole Picardian plain for a grave,
A fitting place to die
Where man has died for man,
To dream, to rest, and greet the morn.

A treader of the skies,
With brother falcons of the shield,
He made new worlds his own,
Soared beyond the condor’s ken,
And shamed the eagle’s flight.
He fought not treacherous foes on earth,
But in his venture toward the sun,
Met those for once ennobled by their deeds,
Who challenged, fought or fell, or died with him.

He knew not death, for as he fell,
He loosed from him that body which had served its day,
As wakes a sleeper from his dreams
And lays his cloak aside.
Then, eager went as eager came,
Up sped his soul and up, and ever up, a meteor in uncharted space,
A light to heavens new,
A banneret of valour ’gainst the setting sun.

And he has missed the heartache,
Life’s jealousies and pain, and sympathies deceived.
Away then, Sorrow, beguiling sister of Despair,
I’ll rest awhile with Sadness
In her twilight hour of balm,
And let grief’s embers die.
For I’ve a treasury of memories so rich and dear
’Twould beggar all the son-less men of earth to buy!

Since memory’s but the bridge of time,
I’ll build it true and high,
To carry me across the skies
When comes my journey far,
And never fear but I’ll know well
Where waits my boy for me –
At the rainbow’s western end!

France, September 1919

From: Noakes, Vivien, Voices of Silence: The Alternative Book of First World War Poetry, 2013, The History Press: Stroud, Gloucestershire, pp. 296-298.

Date: 1919

By: Wade Chance (fl. 1919)

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