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The Galahads

At summer’s noon upon the wilds there crept
An evil shadow, and the wind stood still;
The parks eternal shivered; in the camps
The children’s laughter hushed, and 'round the board
Lurked close that shadow of the Prussian crime.
The great star Lucifer had dropt from heaven—
A race, once honored, boasted in the mire
Of theft and murder; Goethe’s crown of light
Rolled from Germania’s brow; Kant’s majesty
Of skylike conscience like a sky crashed down;
And in the peace of the remotest woods
Reverberated those foul boasts of shame.

Yet faint above the din, on ether borne,
A clear voice rang the ancient battle cries:
“Freedom and honor! truth and chivalry!
St. George, defend thy pledges unto death!
St. George, defend the weak, and save the world!”
And all true sons of Britain felt it vain
To live, unless as British knights of old,

Then lo! With reverence and pride we saw
The knights of old appear,—Sir Galahads,
None purer, none more brave. They had been known
Till then but as the schoolboys of the camps,
Carefree and merry, warming elder blood
By pranks of diving, reckless climbing feats
Up sheerest precipices. Trackless wilds
Knew them as tenters. The shy beaver heard
Their paddles unafraid. Widely they ranged
The peaks and dales uncharted, seeking risks
For love of danger and the jest with Death.
Skilled by adventure in a score of arts
Their strength they stinted not to all that asked.
Pleasant they were to look on, clean their speech
And honest-eyed the cheerful countenance.
Ewitchi claimed them. His enchantments fell
Upon them in his woods and ridges wild;
He loved and sent them dreams, asleep, awake,
And spun light threads to reach them o’er the world;
All his rare beauty was their heritage,
And I n their hearts he left his mystic call.

Yesterday they were children. Scarcely yet
Knew we they needed less our tender care,
Until some grave look or some manly deed
Warned us the soul was ripe. We pondered then.

So came the world’s great need and Honor’s call,
And silent, modest, up they rose to serve,—
Then in our wonder we beheld them men
And saw the Knights of Arthur’s Table stand
Before us in their sacred panoply.
Little they said and noght delayed their going,
Farewells to launch, canoe, fair lake and range,
A tender word to Mother, and forth they fared,
As thousands like them fared from lake and stream,
Crusaders of the Grail. Rude knights were some
But knightly all: God loves all faithful men.

Their deeds are written on the sun. What need
To tell again how,—equals with the best
Of Britain’s and of France’s chivalry--
(Equals of those at Mons who taught the hordes
Trusting in guns and numbers, what soldiers were;
Equals of those who at Verdun stood firm
In the long storms of fire);—what need to tell
How ours broke Prussia’s heart of cruel pride
At Ypres, Festubert and Courcellette!

Galahads of the camps! For this you learnt
The fearless life and strenuous company
Of the wild North, contempt of hurt and cold,
Joy of unmeasured contest, wit to meet
Emergency, deft skill and steady nerve.
What seemed but sport was training, and the best
Was inner,—loyal will and heart humane.
And in your battles you remembered oft
The mountains of the land of Manitou.
Some shall return with honor, henceforth called
The heroes of the world. But where are those
Who never shall return?
                                        They saw the Grail
And were caught up to heaven. Where is Lysle,
With eyes of sunlight ever brimming mirth,
Magnet of every heart? Where Edward kind
Who knew no bounds to faithfulness, and bore,
Three times shell-buried, that message to his chief?
Alas! to earthly eyes they sleep afar
In fields of glory famed to end of time.
Yet ever shall they clothe these leafy hills.
With visions of the noblest deeds of men
And hold before Canadian youth to come
The quest eternal of the Holy Grail.