The Guns in Sussex

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Guns in Sussex is a poem written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 27 july 1917, and collected in The Guards Came Through and Other Poems on 16 december 1919.


The Guns in Sussex

The Times (27 july 1917)

Light green of grass and richer green of bush
Slope upwards to the darkest green of fir;
How still! How deathly still! And yet the hush
Shivers and trembles with some subtle stir,
Some far-off throbbing like a muffled drum,
Beaten in broken rhythm oversea,
To play the last funereal march of some
Who die to-day that Europe may be free.

The deep-blue heaven, curving from the green,
Spans with its shimmering arch the flowery zone;
In all God's earth there is no gentler scene,
And yet I hear that awesome monotone;
Above the circling midge's piping shrill,
And the long droning of the questing bee,
Above all sultry summer sounds, it still
Mutters its ceaseless menaces to me.

And as I listen, all the garden fair
Darkens to plains of misery and death,
And, looking past the roses, I see there
Those sordid furrows with the rising breath
Of all things foul and black. My heart is hot
Within me as I view it, and I cry,
"Better the misery of these men's lot
Than all the peace that comes to such as I!"

And strange that in the pauses of the sound
I hear the children's laughter as they roam,
And then their mother calls, and all around
Rise up the gentle murmurs of a home.
But still I gaze afar, and at the sight
My whole soul softens to its heart-felt prayer,
"Spirit of Justice, Thou for whom they fight,
Ah, turn in mercy to our lads out there!

"The froward peoples have deserved Thy wrath,
And on them is the Judgment as of old,
But if they wandered from the hallowed path,
Yet is their retribution manifold.
Behold all Europe writhing on the rack,
The sins of fathers grinding down the sons,
How long, O Lord?" He sends no answer back,
But still I hear the mutter of the guns.