Oh tell, dark mud, stained and dyed in rivulets of blood,
Why scream harsh tones, the ravens and crows,
Amidst the ash and hellish cries, choking skies
Bone and flesh, metal-torn, bowing to the reaper’s horn?
What saw you fading to the years,
What said you against the deafened ears,
To still their hearts to cold hard death?
What wind you stole to take their breath,
How lie you silent, reeking mid-sun,
The first is finished, the war begun.
“Silence, mortal, I am but they
Who in late years have passed this way,
They died to fall and live in me,
Someday to fall into the sea,
Forever roaring battle song
Assaulting ships and wrecking wrong.
“I saw more blood than I can hold,
To them who fell as they faded I told,
Be now at peace, no war can find you
And with new fire their forms flew on,
Kindling stars with battle-song,
The body of old falls deep to me,
Each soul goes to where he would be.
No tempest shrieking moves them now,
Before no conqueror shall they bow.
I lie here famished, glutted in death,
Waiting the tide to cleanse me again,
To send the memory of these wretched men,
To the grave, to the fish, to the birds, to their rest.”
And their memory? is it to be lost
As changing to fog flies the frost?
“What matters it now, they know who they are!
Some are remembered for the deeds they achieved,
But remember this, you hot-hearted fool,
Not Achilles would be known if not for the thousands
Who perished before him and after his wake,
Though his victims be piled and burned in red mountains,
Pain and oblivion spurting black fountains,
Leaving behind them ten thousand to grieve!
Alone man is futile, in battle or peace,
Surely ’tis true that great men may come –
Not one, I tell you, not a single one,
Has lived but for the weak who first raised him,
And if dying in violence and heat of Hell’s hate
Is action held worthy of memory and song,
Then hold still in closer the hope of each tide,
The flow of life and peace and war,
Each birth and death, every drop of rain,
Which over history cleans and renews
The ill or good fortune all nations shall choose.”