Our Heroes: Who, Being Dead, Yet Speak by S. Elliott Napier

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"O lov'd and honor'd dead!" we cry,
"O honor'd dead!" -- and where they lie,
Beneath the blue but alien sky,
The dead men whisper their reply:

Ten years ago the storm-clouds broke
And Armageddon's thunders woke  
   A wounded, wond'ring world to know
   That at the gates there stood the foe,
Thrusting at Faith with wanton stroke.
We -- we who heard the raven-croak
Of death beneath his shadowy cloak,
   And watch'd his dreadful harvest grow,
                     Ten years ago,
Heard, too, from out the battle-smoke,
A voice that rang: "Take up the yoke,
   This is thine hour; through fear and woe
   And bitterness fight on!" and, lo!
Thus did we, for 'twas honour spoke,
                     Ten years ago.

Ten years ago we shared the jest
With you and knew with you the zest
   Of life -- now lie we here. You say
   You honour our great dying -- stay!
How hath your honour stood the test?
That which we gain'd have you possess'd?
That which we strove for have you stress'd?
   Where are the things we won that day,
                     Ten years ago?
Your honour is dishonour dress'd
In huckster's garments at the best.
   We showed -- can you not keep? -- the way;
   We paid the price -- can you not pay?
We rest not; yet we earn'd our rest
                     Ten years ago.  

Ten years ago we strove for naught
But peace and liberty; we fought
   To conquer tyranny and pride,
   And in our dying gladly cried
That we had found what we had sought.
It seems we err'd in deed and thought;
Although we clutch'd, we never caught
   The gracious things for which we died,
                     Those years ago.
Is this the peace the years have brought,
The liberty we learn'd and taught?
   The truth for which hell's gates we pried --
   This wanton one that virgin bride?
Ah, no! 'Twas not those things we sought
                     Ten years ago!

The whisp'ring voices sink and cease,
But we who hear -- shall we increase
The shame; or, healing, bring release
By some now nobler Armistice,
And win the world to lasting peace?

This is our debt with those who laid
Their lives down gladly, unafraid,
That wrong's red torrent might be stayed.
This is the debt that we have made;
Ah, brothers, shall it not be paid?

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 August 1924

Author reference sites: Austlit

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 2, 2012 9:01 AM.

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