"Two hundred thousand of our sons," says Mussolini, "have sought honor in going to East Africa . . .Who would bring them back before they have obtained the fruits of their heroism?"
These be the fruits, O man who would out-loom The proudest Caesar of Rome's proudest story, When legion after legion marched to doom That one man might be clothed in briefest glory; Torn bodies, bloody fields and the rank lees Of Conquest's maddening draft, and so a nation, Fat with much spoil and many victories, Drifted into decay and desolation. These be the fruits: Dead men who die in vain, Maimed broken men, to living death surrendered, A myriad stricken homes to mourn the slain -- Men? Cannon-fodder to the War God tendered, Deluded boys, primed with vainglorious dreams Of flashing steel, romance -- war's outworn story -- Sent forth to gasp young lives out in foul streams Of fetid gas -- meet attributes of glory! These be the fruits: This tortured shred of flesh, Lately a youth, with youth's bright gifts scarce tasted Sent to the shambles, while, still clear and fresh In minds of men, the Lesson lingers, wasted -- The Lesson tought but lately; and so plain, That even fools its wisdom here might borrow; For victor and for vanquished, war's sole gain Lies in long after years of pain and sorrow. Fruits? Dead-sea fruits, most bitter with the taste Of all war's grim bequest of worse confusion. God and men's bodies, fruitful earth laid waste -- Not in dire need, but for a vain delusion, And, in the end, a tinsel god who prates Of hollow victories, crying, "Tomorrow Shall we triumphant rise!" While at the gates Lurks a land's heritage -- relentless Sorrow.
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2005-07|