He hurried away, young heart of joy, under our Devon sky!
And I watched him go, my beautiful boy, and a weary woman was I.
For my hair is grey, and his was gold; he'd the best of his life to live;
And I'd loved him so, and I'm old, I'm old; and he's all I had to give.
Ah yes, he was proud and swift and gay, but oh how my eyes were dim!
With the sun in his heart he went away, but he took the sun with him.
For look! How the leaves are falling now, and the winter won't be long. . . .
Oh boy, my boy with the sunny brow, and the lips of love and of song!
How we used to sit at the day's sweet end, we two by the firelight's gleam,
And we'd drift to the Valley of Let's Pretend, on the beautiful river of Dream.
Oh dear little heart! All wealth untold would I gladly, gladly pay
Could I just for a moment closely hold that golden head to my grey.
For I gaze in the fire, and I'm seeing there a child, and he waves to me;
And I run and I hold him up in the air, and he laughs and shouts with glee;
A little bundle of love and mirth, crying: "Come, Mumsie dear!"
Ah me! If he called from the ends of the earth I know that my heart would hear.
Yet the thought comes thrilling through all my pain: how worthier could he die?
Yea, a loss like that is a glorious gain, and pitiful proud am I.
For Peace must be bought with blood and tears, and the boys of our hearts must pay;
And so in our joy of the after-years, let us bless them every day.
And though I know there's a hasty grave with a poor little cross at its head,
And the gold of his youth he so gladly gave, yet to me he'll never be dead.
And the sun in my Devon lane will be gay, and my boy will be with me still,
So I'm finding the heart to smile and say: "Oh God, if it be Thy Will!"
By Robert W. Service
By Robert W. Service, from Rhymes of a Red-Cross Man, 1916, Public Domain