Prose & Poetry - The Muse in Arms - The Death of the Zeppelin
First published in London in November 1917 and reprinted in February 1918 The Muse in Arms comprised, in the words of editor E. B. Osborne:
"A collection of war poems, for the most part written in the field of action, by seamen, soldiers, and flying men who are serving, or have served, in the Great War".
Below is one of eight poems featured within the War in the Air section of the collection.
You can access other poems within the section via the sidebar to the right.
The Death of the Zeppelin
A false, false night! Across
the sightless sky
Passed and repassed, again and yet again,
A many-flickering smile of irony,
The hieroglyphic of an evil thought.
A few pale stars glistened like drops of sweat
On the brow o' the east... There was no wind -
The wind that was not whispered in the ear
Strange, crimson syllables of gathering doom;
Dread, flaming obsequies were in the eye
Before the fiery pencil traced them out;
And still the omens held, and still was heard
The voice of silence, the unspoken word.
At last! At last the
winged Worm draws near,
The vulture-ship that dare not voyage by day,
The man-made Dinosaur that haunts the night,
The beast-like creature of a bestial mind,
Which preys by choice on small and innocent lives,
Drinking its blood well soothed with mothers' milk -
Whose reeking weapons scandalise the stars,
And do most foully wrong the sanctuary
Of God's tempestuous angels, the bright winds,
That haste about the globe at His behest.
Above the violet verge of the low east
This blind and obscene head of frightfulness
Was suddenly thrust. We marked its course afar
By dull pulsations of the eager guns,
The grey, lean warders of far-listening London;
By bursts of shell-fire, mimic Leonids,
Flame-petal'd stars all blossoming blood-red.
The harassed Worm sought covert in a cloud
Which, soon disparted, gave him for a prey
To the implacable airman hovering near
(His battle-plane was part of him that hour;
In every cog and joint his valour moved,
The thing possessed was man as well as bird)
Who pierced his bowels with a fiery bolt.
The Monster writhed in self-engendered flames
Which brake forth in the likeness of a rose,
A rose-white passion in the timeless night,
A torch of hell brandished at heaven's gate,
A piercing wonder in the million eyes
Of waking London... At last he dropped,
A sombre coal of fading crimson fire,
Into his burial-place, a field defiled.
And then, but not till then, arose the cry,
Prolonged, unpitying, a cordite cheer
Of the old valiant city, stark as Time,
Which wills not mercy for the merciless.
Beyond the storied stream a bower of trees
Caught it and cast it back, through all their leaves
Thrilled with a vocal joy of vengeance due,
Paid but in part, which shall be paid in full.
The Parados was the side of a trench farthest from the enemy.
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