A Lament to War
A sea of time has passed us by and still we think of them:
The lives unlived, the dreams curtailed, the legions of our men.
We did not know, we could not tell, what terror lay in store,
As year on year the butcher’s cry demanded more and more.
For full a hundred years and more our power had waxed supreme
And kept large conflagrations low and made us start to preen.
We thought we could control events and stop war in its tracks
With webs of close alliances, diplomacy and pacts.
A maelstrom poured upon our men of iron, steel and fire,
And sent a piteous wail of grief through every town and shire.
We must press on, we told ourselves what now we have begun,
Till British pluck and doggedness did triumph o’er the Hun.
Through mud and ice and poison gas the order was ‘stand fast’;
This trial of strength twixt mortal foes, it surely could not last.
For four long years we stood our ground and bravely would not yield,
Till northern France ran red with blood through every poppy field.
Delusions born of hubris ease had caused us to believe
This war could be no different from the rest we had conceived,
But science changes everything and chivalry was dead,
Midst fire and smoke and strafing planes and mustard gas and lead.
Oh God above, what did we do to vent our foolish spleen,
But sacrifice the best we had on altars of the keen?
How little did we think it through and cry aloud ‘enough’!
But yet preferred to stumble on with bloody blind man’s bluff.