White Cliffs (extracts)
Thou art a gem; and, set within a sea
Of azure blue, thy white cliffs nobly rise.
Rugged and yet beautiful they guard thee.
Thou art too rare, thou art a wond’rous prize.
Many’s the time thou hast been beset,
Many a Nation has aspired to climb
Thy chalky face; in vain they try, and yet
Thou hast repulsed them, calmly and sublime.
But while you guarded, England fell asleep;
“Our cliffs are there,” they said, “our cliffs of yore,”
And slumbering still they turned and slumbered deep,
While rumbling nearer came the sounds of war.
At last it came, and still they snored aloud;
“It cannot be,” they said, and turned to shore.
But opening bleary eye, they saw a cloud –
It was the ever growing cloud of war.
‘Twas then this Nation all its slumber shed,
And sent its clarion call both far and wide;
To furthest corner of Empire if fled,
To wake them all. “Nation arise!” it cried.
So, throughout the Nation, all had heard,
Had left their all and gone, ‘twas not too late.
The White Cliffs played their part without a word –
“Patriots, go forth and seek your fate.”
‘Tis three years now, and still you play that part,
You’re not forgotten, though you’re far away,
You’re deep down in that truly English heart,
To see you once again they wait the day,
‘Tis now long time since many saw you grow
Dimmer; they stood and watched you all the time
Until you faded; some will never know
Again the joy of seeing your Cliffs of lime.
They’ve left their bodies in a foreign land,
Gladly would they give their lives, all over
Again to see their meadows, native strand,
Once more those lofty great White Cliffs of Dover.
Sergeant D. Seton Smith
Taken from the anthology: ‘Poems from the Desert – Verses by members of the Eighth Army’. Published by George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd.