“A Conviction” by Alexander Robertson
From Last Poems of Alexander Robertson, 1918
A night of chill, a station dim,
And many an ambulance
To carry forth a burden grim
Of smitten men from France.
Slow to its halting came the train:
The ambulances passed
Along the archway, to regain
A shelter through the blast.
I could not see nor could desire
Those prostrate men to see,
Some only wishful to expire,—
So dread can living be.
And some, recumbent lives must lead
Through their remaining years,
And some have gained as valour’s meed
But madness and its fears.
And some have lost their sight and some
No voice again will hear,
And some before their death are dumb,
And others—still more drear
Their fate—bereft of sight and speech
A soundless world endure.
But I tried to see the soul of each,
Whom fate did thus immure,
Whom death could save not from distress,
Whose reason still was whole,—
To such does life give no redress
For all their anguish’ toll?
They have no guerdon of renown
And gratitude is weak
To counter old plans overthrown,—
What object can they seek?
What purpose to sustain the will?
How shall they soon forget
The horrors seen so late, which still
Their memories beset?
The mean alone and cruel cry
To such that all is well.
And yet, to live, each man must spy
Some pathway from his hell.
And Life pursuant of her goal
(And great that goal must be)
With strange hopes partly calms the soul
And softening memory.