THE REPUBLIC OF
FRANCE IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR
Silence shrouds the noblest name on earth:
Verdun, wrapped in endless aftermath.
Here, the men of France came marching, man by man,
One for every second, every day,
To prove the proudest and most stoic love.
Now, the ordeal over, they sleep their last sleep.
Verdun, their immortal widow, trembles and weeps;
Or sobs to heaven above for their return,
Her two high towers like supplicating arms.
Passer-by, think not to extol
The city hosts of angels shielded, sprung
From every inch of France’s soil. So much blood
Has run: let no vain human voice ever
Adulterate with feeble, keening pain
The incense misting endlessly from this loam.
Acknowledge, in the slashed and battered plain,
The fathomless and hallowed power of France,
Whose noblest hearts now lie buried in her soil.
The death they died here no word can name,
So consentingly was each man’s sacrifice made.
Soaked and sated, earth is made man.
O passer-by, still your voice, stay your hand:
See; feel; pray; revere them for the price they paid.
ANNA DE NOAILLES