Memorial Day

Don’t Cheer

Don’t cheer, damn you! Don’t cheer!
Silence! Your bitterest tear
Is fulsomely sweet to-day. . . .
Down on your knees and pray.

See, they sing as they go,
Marching row upon row.
Who will be spared to return,
Sombre and starkly stern?
Chaps whom we knew – s0 strange,
Distant and dark with change;
Silent as those they slew,
Something in them dead too.
Who will return this way,
To sing as they sing to-day.

Send to the glut of the guns
Bravest and best of you sons.
Hurl a million to slaughter,
Blood flowing like Thames water;
Pile up pyramid high
Your dead to the anguished sky;
A monument down all time
Of hate and horror and crime.
Weep, rage, pity, curse, fear –
Anything, but . . . don’t cheer.

Sow to the ploughing guns
Seed of your splendid sons.
Let your heroic slain
Richly manure the plain.
What will the harvest be?
Unborn of Unborn will see. . . .

Dark is the sky and drear. . . .
For the pity of God don’t cheer.
Dark and dread is their way.
Who sing as they march to-day. . . .
Humble your hearts and pray.

– Robert Service

Comments 2

  1. John wrote:

    Victory Stuff

    What d’ye think, lad; what d’ye think,
    As the roaring crowds go by?
    As the banners flare and the brasses blare
    And the great guns rend the sky?
    As the women laugh like they’d all gone mad,
    And the champagne glasses clink:
    Oh, you’re grippin’ me hand so tightly, lad,
    I’m a-wonderin’: what d’ye think?

    D’ye think o’ the boys we used to know,
    And how they’d have topped the fun?
    Tom and Charlie, and Jack and Joe —
    Gone now, every one.
    How they’d have cheered as the joy-bells chime,
    And they grabbed each girl for a kiss!
    And now — they’re rottin’ in Flanders slime,
    And they gave their lives — for this.

    Or else d’ye think of the many a time
    We wished we too was dead,
    Up to our knees in the freezin’ grime,
    With the fires of hell overhead;
    When the youth and the strength of us sapped away,
    And we cursed in our rage and pain?
    And yet — we haven’t a word to say. . . .
    We’re glad. We’d do it again.

    I’m scared that they pity us. Come, old boy,
    Let’s leave them their flags and their fuss.
    We’d surely be hatin’ to spoil their joy
    With the sight of such wrecks as us.
    Let’s slip away quietly, you and me,
    And we’ll talk of our chums out there:
    You with your eyes that’ll never see,
    Me that’s wheeled in a chair.

    -Robert Service

    Posted 30 May 2006 at 11:49 pm
  2. howard wrote:

    Ah, 19th century poets rock!

    Posted 31 May 2006 at 1:49 am

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