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.