Satan's horse came sauntering- loping- running,
His neck some grisly gallows tree,
With a snout like a low church-bell,
Heart like the blazes of Hell,
Hooves loud like a marcher's drumming,
Eyes glinting, dark yet bright, like a shackle's lead.
Satan perched smiling upon the saddle,
Like a burden placed on some tired mule.
Sly as his devilish grin,
Cunning as a child's first sin,
Guiltless as a newborn's rattle,
Fiery as the blazing Yule.
He spoke with the brazen grace of a general,
Freezing lips harsh, like steel on steel,
Fire inside his eyes,
Like morphine on ice,
Teeth as sharp as drawn bayonets,
He called out these words as he kneeled:
"O, Rival, O, Lord of the Righteous,
O, Enemy, O, Lord of the Right,
The fighting Men at Verdun,
Prepare to shed broad tracts of blood,
I take it their souls fall between us…
And think it wise they should ne'er see the Light."
Satan stood at attention,
A master, a commander, to time,
Yet still, only a soldier,
To that Divine Power wiser and older,
The Lord merely nodded, in silent contemplation:
"Let the men at arms decide."
The snow fell ghostly pale in the trenches,
The night wind whispered men's wrongs,
Ravenous wishes like gas,
Unfolding at last,
The shadow, blacker than black, which darkness etches,
Upon the light of the breaking dawn.
Morning's bleak light arrived swiftly,
Dispersing the darkness, not the fear.
The dismal shadows of pines,
Like the enemy lines,
No longer were rifles drawn quickly,
But rather, "Stille Nacht", hearkened sweet in men's ears.
From trench to dim trench it galloped and fast,
The song of a savior long past,
"Stille Nacht", "Silent Night";
Every tongue was right;
The dark hymns of artillery now silent,
For the song of the Newborn King.
Faithful carols were zealously fashioned
On the tongues of broken men willing to sing,
Now gave up their qualms,
While their kinsmen at home paid their rations,
Soldiers dined together, at war, as kings.
The warm Houses of all nations exalting,
The burning of Yule and freshly-felled deer,
The red Horror of the war,
Sights of carnage and gore,
The bitter chill of winter now ending,
With the growing Word that Christmas was here.
The song of the Lord had devoured,
What the black wishes of Satan had robbed;
Bombs ceased to fall,
Treads halted their deathly crawl,
As Babel fell with its once-mighty tower,
While Virgin and Magdalen sobbed.
The sun rose and fell in the gray starkness,
The War would rage on the next morn',
To Satan's dismay,
They enjoyed the Lord's Day,
A moment of truth 'midst the darkness,
A teardrop of light in the storm.
Satan's horse left whinnying- reeling- running,
Neck like the new-grown Eden-Tree,
Open mouth like a wedding bell,
Heart like like a Holy Well,
Hooves like a new heart's fresh drumming,
Eyes like an aged spirit set free.
Satan slouched in the saddle,
Like some heavy charge of earthly pride,
Night-black reins in his left hand,
Defeated by God- No, by Man,
A Serpent in the guise of an Angel,
An outcast with no road to ride.
He cried aloud to his Creator in Heaven,
"O, Rival, O, Lord of the Right,
The armed Men at Verdun,
Chose not to shed blood,
I believe their souls fall to Your Kingdom…
And I believe it wise that they should see The Light."