Alfred Noyes

The Victory Ball

The cymbals crash,
    And the dancers walk
With long silk stockings
    And arms of chalk,
Butterfly skirts,
    And white breasts bare,
And shadows of dead men
    Watching ’em there.

Shadows of dead men
    Stand by the wall,
Watching the fun
    Of the Victory Ball.
They do not reproach,
    Because they know,
If they’re forgotten,
    It’s better so.

Under the dancing
    Feet are the graves.
Dazzle and motley,
    In long bright waves,
Brushed by the palm-fronds,
    Grapple and whirl
Ox-eyed matron
    And slim white girl.

Fat wet bodies
    Go waddling by,
Girdled with satin,
    Though God knows why;
Gripped by satyrs
    In white and black,
With a fat wet hand
    On the fat wet back.

See, there is one child
    Fresh from school,
Learning the ropes
    As the old hands rule.
God, how that dead boy
    Gapes and grins
As the tom-toms bang
    And the shimmy begins!

“What did you think
    We should find,” said a shade,
“When the last shot echoed
    And peace was made?”
“Christ,” laughed the fleshless
    Jaws of his friend;
“I thought they’d be praying
    For worlds to mend;

“Making earth better,
    Or something silly,
Like whitewashing hell
    Or Picca-dam-dilly.
They’ve a sense of humor,
    These women of ours,
These exquisite lilies,
    These fresh young flowers!”

“Pish,” said a statesman
    Standing near,
“I’m glad they can busy
    Their thoughts elsewhere!
We mustn’t reproach ’em.
    They’re young, you see.”
“Ah,” said the dead men,
    “So were we!”

Victory! Victory!
    On with the dance!
Back to the jungle
    The new beasts prance!
God, how the dead men
    Grin by the wall,
Watching the fun
    Of the Victory Ball.