Prose & Poetry - The Muse in Arms - The Half-hour's Furlough

"The Half-hour's Furlough" by Joseph Lee 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 seven poems featured within The Ghostly Company section of the collection.

You can access other poems within the section via the sidebar to the right.

The Half-hour's Furlough
by Joseph Lee

I thought that a man Vent home last night
From the trench where the tired men lie,
And walked through the streets of his own old town -
And I thought that man was I.

And I walked through the gates of that good old town
Which circles below the hill,
And laves its feet in the river fair
That floweth so full and still.

Gladly and gladly into my heart
Came the old street sounds and sights,
And pleasanter far than the Pleiades
Was the gleam of the old street lights.

And as I came by St. Mary's Tower,
The old, solemn bell struck ten,
And back to me echoed the memory
Of my boyhood days again:
Musing I turned me east about
To the haunt of my fellow-men.

There were some that walked, and some that talked,
Beneath the old Arcade,
And for comfort I elbowed among the throng
And hearkened to what they said.

Some were that talked, and some that walked
By one, by two, by three;
And some there were who spake my name
As though they loved me.

And some who said, "Might he but return
When this weary war is spent!"
And it moved me much that their thought was such,
And I turned me well content.

I passed me along each familiar way,
And paused at each friendly door,
And thought of the things that had chanced within
In the kindly days of yore.

Till I came to the place of my long, long love,
Where she lay with her head on her arm;
And she sighed a prayer that the dear Lord should
Shield my body from all harm.

Ae kiss I left on her snow-white brow,
And ane on her raven hair,
And ane, the last, on her ruby lips,
Syne forth again I fare.

And I came to the home that will ay be home,
And brightly the fires did burn,
And at hearth, and in hearts, was a place for me
'Gainst the day that I should return.

Then I came to the glade where my mother was laid,
'Neath the cypress and the yew
And she stood abune, and she said, "My son,
I am glad that your heart was true."

And I passed me over both hill and down,
By each well-remembered path,
While the blessed dawn, like the love o' God,
Stole over the sleeping Strath.

And from a thorn came the pipe of a thrush,
Like the first faint pipes of Peace
It slid with healing into my heart,
And my sorrowing found surcease.

Then I awoke to the sound of guns,
And in my ears was the cry
"The Second Relief will stand to arms!"
And I rose - for that man was I.

"Bully Beef" comprised cans of boiled or pickled beef used by the British Army.

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Muse in Arms

Ghostly Company