Poem: The Battle of the Stories (1915)

In the Caucasus.

They came uncounted like the stars like the stars that circle or are set,
They circled and they caught us as in a sparkling casting-net
We burst it in the mountain gate where all the guns began,
When the snow stood up at Christmas on the hills of Ardahan.
The guns—and not a bell to tell that God was made a man—
But we did all remember, though all the world forget.

Before Paris.

The kings came over the olden Rhine to break an ancient debt,
We took their rush at the river of death in the fields where we first met,
And far beyond them, like a bird, Maunoury’s bugle call:
And there were not kings or debts or doubts or anything at all
But the People that remembers and the peoples that forget.

In Flanders.

Empty above your bleating hordes his throne abides the threat,
Who drew the sword of his despair to front your butcher’s bet:
You shall scan the empty scabbard; you shall search the empty seat.
While he along the ruined skies rides royal with retreat,
In the judgment and the silence and the grass upon the street.
And the oath the heavens remember and you would fain forget.

In Poland.

A cloud was on the face of God when three kings met,
What hour the worst of men were made the sun hath suffered yet.
We knew them in their nibbling peace or ever they went to war.
In petty school and pilfered field we know them what they are.
And we drank the cup of anguish to the pardon of the Czar,
To the nations that remember and the empires that forget.

In the Dardanelles.

To the horned mount of the high Mahound of moon and of minaret.
Labouring go the sieging trains whose track are blood and sweat.
The ships break in a sanguine sea; and far to the front a boy
Fallen, and his face flung back to shout with the Son of God for joy.
And the long land under the lifted smoke; and a great light on Troy,
And all that men remember and madmen can forget.

In the Balkans.

They thrice on crags of death were dry and thrice in Danube wet
To prove an old man’s heart was empty of regret,
For the Turks have taken his city’s soul: his spurs of gold are dross,
And the Crescent hangs upon him while we hang upon the Cross.
But we heave our tower of pride upon Kosovo of the loss,
For a proof that we remember and the infidels forget.

In the Alps.

Master of Arts and mastery of arms, master of all things yet,
For the musket as for the mandolin the master fingers fret;
The news to the noise of the mandolin that all the world comes home,
And the young are young and the years return and the days of kingdom come.
When the wars wearied, and the tribes turned; and the sun rose on Rome,
And all that Rome remembers when all her realms forget.

In the North Sea.

Though the seas were sewn with the new dragons that knew not what they ate,
We broke St. George’s banner out to the black wind and the wet,
He hath broken all the bridges we could fling, the world and we,
But the bridge of death in heaven that His people might be free,
That we straddled for the saddle of the riders of the sea.
For St. George that shall remember if the Dragon shall forget.

All the Voices.

Behold, we are men of many lands, in the motley seasons set,
From Riga to the rock of Spain, from Orkney to Olivet,
Who stand up in the council in the turning of the year,
And, standing, give the judgment on the evil house of fear;
Knowing the End shall write again what we have written here,
On the day when God remembers and no man can forget.

~G.K. Chesterton