The halls that were loud with the merry tread of young and careless feet
Are still with a stillness that is too drear to seem like holiday,
And never a gust of laughter breaks the calm of the dreaming street
Or rises to shake the ivied walls and frighten the doves away.
The dust is on book and on empty desk, and the tennis-racquet and balls
Lie still in their lonely locker and wait for a game that is never played,
And over the study and lecture-room and the river and meadow falls
A stern peace, a strange peace, a peace that War has made.
For many a youthful shoulder now is gay with an epaulet,
And the hand that was deft with a cricket-bat is defter with a sword,
And some of the lads will laugh to-day where the trench is red and wet,
And some will win on the bloody field the accolade of the Lord.
They have taken their youth and mirth away
from the study and playing-ground
To a new school in an alien land beneath an alien sky;
Out in the smoke and roar of the fight their lessons and games are found,
And they who were learning how to live are learning how to die.
And after the golden day has come and the war is at an end,
A slab of bronze on the chapel wall will tell of the noble dead.
And every name on that radiant list will be the name of a friend,
A name that shall through the centuries in grateful prayers be said.
And there will be ghosts in the old school,
brave ghosts with laughing eyes,
On the field with a ghostly cricket-bat, by the stream with a ghostly rod;
They will touch the hearts of the living with a flame that sanctifies,
A flame that they took with strong young hands
from the altar-fires of God.