Works in the Herald 1935

"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.

Herald, 3 October 1935, p6

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2005-07