The Cenotaph

By Charlotte Mew 1869–1928 Charlotte Mew
Not yet will those measureless fields be green again
Where only yesterday the wild sweet blood of wonderful youth was shed;
There is a grave whose earth must hold too long, too deep a stain,
Though for ever over it we may speak as proudly as we may tread.
But here, where the watchers by lonely hearths from the thrust of an inward sword have more slowly bled,
We shall build the Cenotaph: Victory, winged, with Peace, winged too, at the column's head.
And over the stairway, at the foot—oh! here, leave desolate, passionate hands to spread
Violets, roses, and laurel with the small sweet twinkling country things
Speaking so wistfully of other Springs
From the little gardens of little places where son or sweetheart was born and bred.
In splendid sleep, with a thousand brothers
     To lovers—to mothers
     Here, too, lies he:
Under the purple, the green, the red,
It is all young life: it must break some women's hearts to see
Such a brave, gay coverlet to such a bed!
Only, when all is done and said,
God is not mocked and neither are the dead.
For this will stand in our Market-place—
     Who'll sell, who'll buy
     (Will you or I
Lie each to each with the better grace)?
While looking into every busy whore's and huckster's face
As they drive their bargains, is the Face
Of God: and some young, piteous, murdered face.

Source: Westminster Gazette (1919)

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Poet Charlotte Mew 1869–1928

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict, Mythology & Folklore, Heroes & Patriotism, Horror

Holidays Memorial Day

Poetic Terms Elegy, Rhymed Stanza

 Charlotte  Mew

Biography

The life of turn-of-the-twentieth-century British writer Charlotte Mew was full of tragedy from beginning to end. Mew was born in London in 1869 into a family of seven children; she was the eldest daughter. While she was still a child, three of her brothers died. Later, another brother and then a sister were committed to mental hospitals in their twenties where they would spend the rest of their lives. That left only Charlotte . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict, Mythology & Folklore, Heroes & Patriotism, Horror

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Elegy, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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