This poem was written by Vera Mary Brittain, a British writer and feminist who also became a pacifist after her experiences as a V.A.D. nurse. Her fiancé and her only brother were both killed during WWI.
'This item is from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive,
University of Oxford (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit); © [Copyright notice]'
Vera wrote this poem in 1916, after she saw the graves of three Canadian sisters who had died nursing at the camp hospital at Mudros Bay, Lemnos.
THE SISTERS BURIED AT LEMNOS
O Golden Isle set in the deep blue Ocean,
With purple shadows flitting o'er thy crest,
I kneel to thee in reverent devotion
Of some who on thy bosom lie at rest!
Seldom they enter into song or story;
Poets praise the soldier's might and deeds of War,
But few exalt the Sisters, and the glory
Of women dead beneath a distant star.
No armies threatened in that lonely station,
They fought not fire or steel or ruthless foe,
But heat and hunger, sickness and privation,
And Winter's deathly chill and blinding snow.
Till mortal frailty could endure no longer
Disease's ravages and climate's power,
In body weak, but spirit ever stronger,
Courageously they stayed to meet their hour.
No blazing tribute through the wide world flying,
No rich reward of sacrifice they craved,
The only meed of their victorious dying
Lives in the heart of humble men they saved.
Who when in light the Final Dawn is breaking,
Still faithfull, though the world's regard may cease,
Will honour, splendid in triumphant waking,
The souls of women, lonely here at peace.
O golden Isle with purple shadows falling
Across thy rocky shore and sapphire sea,
I shall not picture these without recalling
The sisters sleeping on the heart of thee!