Policeman X

A poem by William Arthur Dunkerley

"Shall it be Peace?
A voice within me cried and would not cease,--
'One man could do it if he would but dare.'"
(From "Policeman X" in "Bees in Amber.")

He did not dare!
His swelling pride laid wait
On opportunity, then dropped the mask
And tempted Fate, cast loaded dice,--and lost;
Nor recked the cost of losing.

"Their souls are mine.
Their lives were in thy hand;--
Of thee I do require them!"

The Voice, so stern and sad, thrilled my heart's core
And shook me where I stood.
Sharper than sharpest sword, it fell on him
Who stood defiant, muffle-cloaked and helmed,
With eyes that burned, impatient to be gone.

"The fetor of thy grim burnt offerings
Comes up to me in clouds of bitterness.
Thy fell undoings crucify afresh
Thy Lord--who died alike for these and thee.
Thy works are Death;--thy spear is in my side,--
O man! O man!--was it for this I died?

Was it for this?--
A valiant people harried, to the void,--
Their fruitful fields a burnt-out wilderness,--
Their prosperous country ravelled into waste,--
Their smiling land a vast red sepulchre.--
--Thy work!

For this?--
--Black clouds of smoke that vail the sight of heaven;
Black piles of stones which yesterday were homes;
And raw black heaps which once were villages;
Fair towns in ashes, spoiled to suage thy spleen;
My temples desecrate, My priests out-cast;--
Black ruin everywhere, and red,--a land
All swamped with blood, and savaged raw and bare;
All sickened with the reek and stench of war,
And flung a prey to pestilence and want;
--Thy work!

For this?--
--Life's fair white flower of manhood in the dust;
Ten thousand thousand hearts made desolate;
My troubled world a seething pit of hate;
My helpless ones the victims of thy lust;--
The broken maids lift hopeless eyes to Me,
The little ones lift handless arms to Me,
The tortured women lift white lips to Me,
The eyes of murdered white-haired sires and dames
Stare up at Me.--And the sad anguished eyes
Of My dumb beasts in agony.
--Thy work!

Outrage on outrage thunders to the sky
The tale of thy stupendous infamy,--
Thy slaughterings,--thy treacheries,--thy thefts,--
Thy broken pacts,--thy honour in the mire,--
Thy poor humanity cast off to sate thy pride;--
'Twere better thou hadst never lived,--or died
Ere come to this.
Thou art the man! The scales were in thy hand.
For this vast wrong I hold thy soul in fee.
Seek not a scapegoat for thy righteous due,
Nor hope to void thy countability.
Until thou purge thy pride and turn to Me,--
As thou hast done, so be it unto thee!"

The shining eyes, so stern, and sweet, and sad,
Searched the hard face for sign of hopeful grace.
But grace was none. Enarmoured in his pride,
With brusque salute the other turned, and strode
Adown the night of Death and fitful fires.

Then, as the Master bowed him, sorrowing,
I heard a great Voice pealing through the heavens,
A Voice that dwarfed earth's thunders to a moan:--
Woe! Woe! Woe!--to him by whom this came.
His house shall unto him be desolate.
And, to the end of time, his name shall be
A byword and reproach in all the lands
He rapined ... And his own shall curse him
For the ruin that he brought.
Who without reason draws the sword--
By sword shall perish!
The Lord hath said ... So be it, Lord!"

AND AFTER! .......
....................... WHAT?

God grant the sacrifice be not in vain!
Those valiant souls who set themselves with pride
To hold the Ways ... and fought ... and fought ... and died,--
They rest with Thee.
But, to the end of time,
The virtue of their valiance shall remain,
To pulse a nobler life through every vein
Of our humanity.

No drop of hero-blood e'er runs to waste,
But springs eternal, Fountain pure and chaste,
For cleansing of men's souls from earthly grime.
Life knows no waste. The Reaper tolls in vain,
In vain piles high his grim red harvesting,--
His dread, red harvest of the slain!
God's wondrous husbandry is oft obscure,
But, without halt or haste, its course is sure,
And His good grain must die to live again.

From this dread sowing, grant us harvest, Lord,
Of Nobler Doing, and of Loftier Hope,--
An All-Embracing and Enduring Peace,--
A Bond of States, a Pact of Peoples, based
On no caprice of royal whim, but on
Foundation mightier than the mightiest throne--
The Well-Considered Will of All the Lands.
Therewith,--a simpler, purer, larger life,
Unhampered by the dread of war's alarms,
A life attuned to closer touch with Thee,
And golden-threaded with Thy Charity;--
A Sweeter Earth,--a Nearer Heaven,--a World
As emulous in Peace as once in War,
And striving ever upward towards The Goal.

So, once again, through Death shall come New Life,
And out of Darkness, Light.

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