A city lay gently dreaming,
As moonbeams peeped and pried,
Trying each little window,
To see the folks inside.
And oft within each window,
A slumbering figure spied:
Here a babe in cradle,
A young mother by his side,
Or there a farmer home from field,
Or worker in snorry stride.
And every little moonbeam
Was gentle with its light,
Careful not to waken,
Careful not to fright.
For every humble worker,
And every weary wife,
Is king and queen of stately dream,
When ends the working strife.
A city lay gently dreaming,
As moonbeams did peep and pry,
And then-a sound of engines,
Unbidden filled the sky.
Now swift, each dreamer from his slumber,
Did violent leave betake,
With cries of "quick!" and "get below!"
And "shake the kids awake!"
And soon ten thousand feet were rushing
Down dark and winding stairs,
Infants snatched and carried,
Old folk wheeled in chairs,
Out of the little houses,
Borne by unspoken fears.
And now the gentle moonbeams
Lit-and lit well-the way,
To deep and cavernous shelters,
Wherein to wait the day.
But even those swiftest awake
Sometimes found shelter too late!
For now, with huge and terrible sound,
Explosions echoed all around.
And the little dancing moonbeams
Now fed each bombers' eye,
That peeled and shrieked a dreadful dirge,
For those about to die.
And many a little cottage,
With all still trapped within,
Did burst and burn with brilliant flame,
As if to purge some ghastly sin.
And sometimes a blazing nursery
With toys still scattered and piled,
Did make of its fire a funeral pyre,
The last blessed Rites for a screaming child.
And as each rushed to shelter,
Down ancient, flagstoned street,
There was none did note a little rose
With no means of such retreat.
The little rose dwelt quietly
On such sudden need to fly:
"The earth doth shake most strangely,
And men do shout and cry,
But I know full well the hand of man,
When flames are in the sky!"
"But whatever draws near,
I will meet without fear,
For this land is mine
Where grows my vine!
Claim of my roots, deep and long,
Ward of my thorns, barbed and strong,
So here I stand and vow to be,
Tomorrow's day, alive and free."
For ten long and dreadful hours
The bombers came and went,
Like insects drawn to fire,
Or from some great Darkness sent.
But with dawn's first beaming ray,
They, as foul dream, faded away,
For not to be seen,
'Mid deeds so unclean,
By the holy light of day.
And then back from each shelter underground,
Crept richest and poorest of all the town,
Equals in dread of that to be found;
And the sun revealed, by first light,
Their darkest fears of all that night:
For what had stood full six centuries,
In splendour and in might,
Forged on that land by Masonic hand,
Was gone in a single night.
Of that City of Three Spires,
Scarce naught did yet remain,
And of the Church and little chapel,
That had in their shadow lain,
Of these, no trace was there,
Except for rubble piled high,
On those who'd knelt in final prayer.
From St. Mary's Hall to the ancient walls
The blaze outshone the day,
They counted lost each little house,
Each building tall and grey,
And noted missing neighbours
With deepening dismay.
They counted lost each absent child,
Each daughter, fair and sweet,
They counted lost each warden,
The soldiers of the street.
They counted lost each fallen babe,
And spade by spade,
In manner brave,
They dug another little grave.
Now swift the City Fathers met,
In Council long and grim,
The city burned and ruined,
Unto the very fringe,
The fate of Europe hanging
Upon a creaking hinge:
They gazed upon the ruins,
And then the Eldest harshly spake:
"What butcher's bargain wrought they here?
They'll not this city take,
For by our hand, we'll hold this land,
Or our fathers' names henceforth forsake!"
"And though they come again tomorrow,
And burn all that remain,
They'll find most savage welcome,
From all might of this domain."
"And by all let this be known,
To bear this grim advice:
That they who tuned this fiddle
Shall pay the fiddler's price."
"For when all the dead are counted,
And rest in grave or urn,
Then with savage hand, we'll storm their land,
And grimly reap our just return!"
And then glancing down upon the ground,
To which only ash seemed wed,
He saw a little, gentle, fallen rose,
To count among the dead.
Thought he: "Poor loss a Summer flower
When Winter's rage is here,
Small use to fire cannon,
Small use to unleash shell,
Would that all our losses
Could thus be borne so well!"
And hearing this, the little rose would speak:
"The city children oft danced around my tree,
With their prattling tales of frogs and snails,
They sounded much like thee!"
"And though they be strange clocks
That mark these dreadful hours,
I think they'd no more winding need,
Would you but hear the voice of simple flowers!":
"Will more cities burned one good remake?
Can corpse begat a child?
Hath man made this a better place
Than when all the Earth was dear and wild?"
"A rose cannot with wisdom speak,
Nor can she be a fool,
She can but hope that man this earth,
Will with wise Dominion, someday rule."
"So let Earth turn full circle
'Ere vengeance be begun,
For the light of love is setting
Beneath a blazing sun,
And he who stays the march of war
Hath the greatest battle justly won."
"So hear a dying rose beseech you,
Forego your rage and wrath,
And find other course of action,
That for rose and man be common path."
"For I'd hoped my petals, fair and sweet,
Might grace some little, quiet street,
But the city, in her final hour,
Made only call for might and power,
So 'mid her ruins let me rest,
But would you heed my last request?"
"When you build upon these ruins
A new city, fair and free,
Girded with mighty highways,
And buildings of majesty,
Might you-perhaps in some shady corner,
by chapel or oaken tree-
somewhere pause, and think to plant...
Another rose like me?"
And saying thus she was borne away,
Perhaps on some angel's hand,
No chart had marked her kingdom,
No gun had marked her stand,
And naught did mark her little grave
Upon the ruined land.