On the Laying of the First Stone of the Memorial Church at Constantinople


Now no more fair Stamboul hears the rattle
Of the warriors' harness at her gates;
Sees no more the tide of Europe's battle
Hotly pressing through her azure straits.

Queen-like, from her terraces and gardens,
She looks down, along those waters blue,
On those turrets twain, her ancient wardens,
Guardians of the old world and the new.

From her throne the languid European
Sees the old camp on the Asian shore,
Sees the foam-wreaths on the far Ægean,
And the white sails flitting slowly o'er.

Sees no more the gathering host that wander'd
To that wild peninsula afar,
To the desolate fort where England squander'd
So much life in one brief winter's war.

When the full ship, with her living burden,
Pass'd so near, she heard the canvas strain,
As she rush'd in haste, for glory's guerdon,
Toward the rock-reefs of that stormy main.

When the waifs of that great strife and anguish,
Like spars borne on a receding tide,
Came back wounded, came back sick to languish
In her shadow, on the Asian side;

To those walls, where sick men, breathing faintly,
Heard an angel rustling in the gloom,
And a woman's presence, calm and stately,
Lighted up the melancholy room.

Look down, Stamboul, from thy fair dome swelling,
Where Sophia's broken crosses lie,
And thine Imaums, night and day, are telling,
In God's face, that everlasting lie.

Not in anger come we to upbraid thee,
Not with war-ships floating on thy bay,
Not with brand and banner come to aid thee,
Stand we by thy Golden Horn to-day.

Lay the stone, O statesman tried and hoary,
'Tis no marble monument of war,
But a trophy to thine England's glory,
Unto distant ages, nobler far.

But a tribute, meeter and more solemn,
To our lost ones by that rough Black Sea,
Than triumphal arch or granite column,
Graven all with names of victory.

They have had their dirges in our sorrows
When the chill'd blood left the cheek and brow,
In that voiceless agony that borrows
An expression out of silent woe.

And their names writ down in Britain's story,
The best page she shows to future years,
And their cold brows twined with wreaths of glory;
Ah, those laurels wet with woman's tears!

Not yet time, with surely-healing fingers,
To our beggar'd love has brought relief,
Still a vain thought of requital lingers,
And an aching memory of grief.

This, our vengeance for the gallant bosoms,
In those cruel trenches, night by night,
Chill'd to death, as snow-encumber'd blossoms
Fall down, and are trampled out of sight.

This, our vengeance for the young life wasted
In the hot charge and the vain attack,
The assault to which so many hasted,
And the charge from which so few came back.

This, our memory of the true and fearless,
Spotless honour, uncomplaining toil,
And the Christian zeal, the valour peerless,
And the tenderness war could not spoil.

Here we raise their monument for ever,
Singing for them, till the world shall end,
" In Memoriam, " such as poet never
Set to Heaven's own music for his friend.

Here we rear the white cross and the altar,
Day by day the page of truth unfold,
Chant their dirges from dear England's Psalter,
Read their requiem from her Bible old.

Blend their memory with these aisles of beauty,
Grave them on the window's storied line;
Meet it is that men who died for duty
Be embalm'd in such a noble shrine;

Where the voice of praise and prayer habitual,
In due order, rises day and night,
Where the calm voice of that grand old ritual
Calls the soldier to a better fight.

Sleep, O warriors! cold your place of burial
In that rough Crimean valley lies,
While our church-spire cleaves the blue ethereal,
And all Nature smiles beneath our eyes.

Sleep, O warriors! all your toil and striving,
In one glorious mission end at last;
Here to speak salvation for the living,
Hope in death, and pardon for the past.

All your strength and valour now are blending
In one note of love, that swells and thrills
Like a strain of martial music, ending
In long echoes drawn from sylvan hills;

For all acts that make our hearts to quiver
With a strong emotion as we read,
Are divine, and go back to the Giver.
High endurance, courage, generous deed,

Come from Christ, and, unto Christ returning,
Find their full acceptance only there,
In that centre of all noble yearning,
In that type of all perfection fair.

Here we leave you in His Church, embalming
Your dear names with thoughts of love and peace
Till He come to reign, all discord calming,
And the warfare of the world shall cease.
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