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Collected Poems

The Fallen

page 106

The Fallen

These are not the first who were young
and died they were not sure for what,
spending their innocence like kids
who drop a penny in the slot.

Their bodies now are fallen stars
faint in the memory of their friends,
their ears are deaf to praise or grief,
nothing we say can make amends.

Their flesh is wasted, their seed spilled,
nothing can help them, nothing atones;
they were defeated, man by man;
truth is bitter, crying from their bones.

Tongues that melt in the dust are silent,
dumb as the crosses stuck above;
arms rotting on the battlefield
cannot invade the bed of love.

They died quickly, as quickly were thrust
in the shallow grave to sleep for ever.
Girls, these are no good to you,
not even the brave, the kind or clever.

What shall we think? The world they lost
should wear their memory like a scar.
What can we say, wringing our hands,
or lingering in the public bar?

They bought us all there was to buy,
left us their share in the estate,
this going concern. For us, not them,
the doomsday and the judgment wait.

Think or forget. It matters little
to these defeated. But be sure,
though we may squander what they saved,
their private fortune is secure.

In desert and forgotten places,
bright in the shadow of our doom,
among the scattered, pitiful dust
the small weed, honour, springs in bloom.