No, not these soldiers – others,
so long ago, ravening out of the forests of
Middle Europe, or the sun-dappled hills of Rome,
or down the rocky shores of the Yalu River,
or the Nile Valley, so green, so parched,
and still we hear their echo,
the clang of their steel, the dull thud
of cleaving bone,
and still we slash and slash, hoping to get it right
over and over, each death a travesty,
each new birth the death of a memory.
My god, you’d think by now
we’d have done it to perfection,
and abandoned it out of boredom
for some gentler pursuit,
but dealing death is our darling,
and a jealous one at that.
Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There’s none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.
Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.