First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Daughters of War

DAUGHTERS OF WAR by ISAAC ROSENBERG

Space beats the ruddy freedom of their limbs--- Their naked dances with man's spirit naked By the root side of the tree of life (The underside of things And shut from earth's profoundest eyes).

I saw in prophetic gleams These mighty daughters in their dances Beckon each soul aghast from its crimson corpse To mix in their glittering dances. I heard the mighty daughters' giant sighs In sleepless passion for the sons of valour, And envy of the days of flesh Barring their love with mortal boughs across,--- The mortal boughs---the mortal tree of life, The old bark burnt with iron wars They blow to a live flame To char the young green days And reach the occult soul;---they have no softer lure--- No softer lure than the savage ways of death. We were satisfied of our Lords the moon and the sun To take our wage of sleep and bread and warmth--- These maidens came---these strong everliving Amazons, And in an easy might their wrists Of night's sway and noon's sway the sceptres brake, Clouding the wild---the soft lustres of our eyes.

Clouding the wild lustres, the clinging tender lights; Driving the darkness into the flame of day, With the Amazonian wind of them Over our corroding faces That must be broken---broken for evermore So the soul can leap out Into their huge embraces. Tho' there are human faces Best sculptures of Deity, And sinews lusted after By the Archangels tall, Even these must leap to the love-heat of these maidens From the flame of terrene days, Leaving grey ashes to the wind---to the wind.

One (whose great lifted face, Where wisdom's strength and beauty's strength And the thewed strength of large beasts Moved and merged, gloomed and lit) Was speaking, surely, as the earth-men's earth fell away; Whose new hearing drunk the sound Where pictures lutes and mountains mixed With the loosed spirit of a thought, Essenced to language, thus---

'My sisters force their males From the doomed earth, from the doomed glee And hankering of hearts. Frail hands gleam up through the human quagmire, and lips of ash Seem to wail, as in sad faded paintings Far sunken and strange. My sisters have their males Clean of the dust of old days That clings about those white hands, And yearns in those voices sad. But these shall not see them, Or think of them in any days or years, They are my sisters' lovers in other days and years.'

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