John McCrae

The Unconquered Dead

            ". . . defeated, with great loss."

Not we the conquered! Not to us the blame
    Of them that flee, of them that basely yield;
Nor ours the shout of victory, the fame
    Of them that vanquish in a stricken field.

That day of battle in the dusty heat
    We lay and heard the bullets swish and sing
Like scythes amid the over-ripened wheat,
    And we the harvest of their garnering.

Some yielded, No, not we! Not we, we swear
    By these our wounds; this trench upon the hill
Where all the shell-strewn earth is seamed and bare,
    Was ours to keep; and lo! we have it still.

We might have yielded, even we, but death
    Came for our helper; like a sudden flood
The crashing darkness fell; our painful breath
    We drew with gasps amid the choking blood.

The roar fell faint and farther off, and soon
    Sank to a foolish humming in our ears,
Like crickets in the long, hot afternoon
    Among the wheat fields of the olden years.

Before our eyes a boundless wall of red
    Shot through by sudden streaks of jagged pain!
Then a slow-gathering darkness overhead
    And rest came on us like a quiet rain.

Not we the conquered! Not to us the shame,
    Who hold our earthen ramparts, nor shall cease
To hold them ever; victors we, who came
    In that fierce moment to our honoured peace.

About the poet
John McCrae
By the same poet
In Flanders Fields
The Anxious Dead
The Warrior
The Captain
The Song of the Derelict
Then and Now
The Hope of My Heart
Slumber Songs
The Oldest Drama
Mine Host
The Dead Master
The Harvest of the Sea
The Dying of Pere Pierre
Upon Watts' Picture "Sic Transit"
A Song of Comfort
The Pilgrims
The Shadow of the Cross
The Night Cometh
In Due Season
Related books
John McCrae at amazon.co.uk

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