by Ethel Ursula Foran
1900 - 24 October 1988
(A legend of the Great War of 1914 - 1918)
The Great War that Napoleon in exile foretold
O'er the nations of Europe like a tidal-wave roll'd—
Crumbling Crowns into dust, snapping Sceptres in twain,
Shaking Thrones to earth to ne'er rise again,
Scattering armies of might, burning humbler homes,
Laying low in the dust spires, temples and domes,
Bringing death and grim ruin in its terrible wake
Until half of all Europe was a blood-crimsoned lake.
The fires of destruction blazed fierce on each shore,
All sounds were drowned out in the thundering roar
Of cannon, of rifle, of bomb and of shell,
Turning heavenly peace into furious hell.
While Death in all forms stalked over the world,
And its blood-stained banners were fiercely unfurled.
There were terrors untold in the Teutons' advance
Which rallied the forces of Britain and France.
It was thus in the midst of that world-shaking strife,
A struggle intense to save Liberty's life,
That the darkness of night was lit into a glow,
In the heavens above, in the valleys below,
When the flashing of shells, as they rushed through the sky,
To the thundering guns of the trench made reply,
When the "curtain of fire" cast its blaze o'er the plain,
And the soil was deep-drenched with torrents of rain,
When the signals of death rushed over the sky
And the hovering aeros inter circled on high,
When each trench was at once a shelter and tomb,
As the spirits of life and death met in the gloom,
Whence eager eyes watched for a move or a sign
To reveal the fate of their much-harassed line;
The sentinels on duty gazed anxious afar
For a hint of the fight in the trenches of war.
All through the long night as the Germans advance,
Sharp vigils are kept by both Britain and France.
Not a man at the front has a moment's repose.
No watcher dare sleep though his aching eyes close.
'Twas thus, 'midst the shreaks of a furious night,
A vision appeared over Mons' naming height, —
A something that seem'd supernatural to all —
A something that thousands of soldiers recall.
Was it a spirit of Hope or a spirit of Doom
That arose on their sight amidst stygean gloom?
What is it that the watcher with night-glass there cons?
They call it, who saw it, "The Angel of Mons."
The soldiers of France, looking out of the dark,
Thought they saw on the hills Saint Joan of Arc,
Clad in armour of silver, with a sabre of gold,
Advancing to lead them as she did of old
They claimed that the vision so wondrous to see
Was a heavenly sign of a grand victory;
And strong grew each heart that was growing faint,
As they thought they were fighting 'neath the eye of their Saint
The soldiers of Britain saw the vision as well;
That wonderful tale these brave fellows tell
Just as ghost-stories are told with lowering breath,
For they feared such a vision far more than death.
Then one whispered the word, in a moment of awe,
It was England's Saint George that the whole army saw.
The courage at once revived in each breast,
Of victory's wave they were now on the crest —
They declared that the War was now rightly begun —
And would end with the crush of the barbaric Hun.
The Belgians beheld Saint Michael the Great
In the vision of Mons, like a signal of Fate,
As he drove the dark legions from Heaven above.
So his power and his justice again he will prove
By leading the ranks that are fighting for Right.
By commanding once more against soldiers of Might.
It could not be other than the Archangel there
That appeared like a spectre, in the sulphurous air;
His invincible sword he unsheathes as of yore,
He will fight for God as he once fought before,
And the hosts of dark evil will again be hurl'd
From the face of the earth clear out of the world:
Such the Belgians thought was that vision so bright
That appeared above Mons in the depths of the night.
Be Michael, or George or Joan the Saint
That appeared over Mons amidst glimmering faint,
Like a spectre let loose from the region of ghosts,
Sent to cheer on to glory fair Liberty's hosts,
The Angel of Mons was a harbinger true
Of the victory the Allies eventually knew.
It may be a legend, or it may be a fact —
With the spirits of Power it may be a pact —
Or it may be a phantom of some horrible dream —
Or it may be of God a forerunning gleam;
But the Angel of Mons was the polar star
Of many a hero in that terrible war.
It is said that soldiers, like sailors, are all
Superstitious and fear the supernatural;
They see spirits in trees and ghosts on the waves,
The dead in shrouds coming out of their graves,
They shudder to think of the spirits that walk,
And the beasts that like human beings oft talk.
It is likely that all the things that they dread —
Be they the living or be they the dead —
Arose to their fancy as on Mons' grim height
They witnessed the vision upon that dread night.
But one thing is certain and all question defies,
That Angel brought victory to the Allies.
by Ethel Ursula Foran
From page 103 - 108
Poems: A Few Blossoms from the Garden of My Dreams
Ethel Foran was thirteen years old on the day of the battle of Mons