written by John Masefield
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Would God the route would come for home.
My God, this place, day after day,
A month of heavy march from Rome!
This camp, the troopers' huts of clay,
The horses tugging at their pins,
The roaring brook and then the whins
And nothing new to do or say.
They say the tribes are up.
Our scouts say that they saw their fires.
Well, if we fight it's only blows
And bogging horses in the mires.
Their raiders crossed the line last night,
Eastward from this, to raid the stud,
They stole our old chief's stallion, Kite.
He's in pursuit.
That looks like blood.
Well, better that than dicing here
Beside this everlasting stream.
My God, I was in Rome last year,
Under the sun, it seems a dream.
Things are not going well in Rome,
This frontier war is wasting men
Like water, and the Tartars come
We beat them back again.
So far we have, and yet I feel
The Empire is too wide a bow
For one land's strength.
The stuff's good steel.
Too great a strain may snap it though.
If we were ordered home . . .
Good Lord . . .
If . . . Then our friends, the tribesmen there
Would have glad days.
This town would flare
To warm old Foxfoot and his horde.
We have not been forethoughtful here,
Pressing the men to fill the ranks
Centurions sweep the province clear.
We get no thanks.
We strip the men for troops abroad
And leave the women and the slaves
For merchants and their kind. The graves
Of half each province line the road.
These people could not stand a day
Against the tribes, with us away.
Here comes the Chief.
Sir, did your riders catch the thief?
No, he got clear and keeps the horse
But bad news always comes with worse.
The frontier's fallen, we're recalled,
Our army's broken, Rome's appalled,
My God, the whole world's in a blaze.
So now, we've done with idle days
Fooling on frontiers. Boot and start.
It gives a strange feel in the heart
To think that this, that Rome has made,
Is done with. Yes, the stock's decayed.
We march at once. You mark my words,
We're done, we're crumbled into sherds,
We shall not see this place again
When once we go.
Do none remain?
No, none, all march. Here ends the play.
March, and burn camp. The order's gone,
Your men have sent your baggage on.
My God! Hark how the trumpets bray!
They do. You see the end of things.
The power of a thousand kings
Helped us to this, and now the power
Is so much hay that was a flower.
We have been very great and strong.
That's over now.
It will be long
Before the world will see our like.
We've kept these thieves beyond the dyke
A good long tune, here on the Wall.
Colonel, we ought to sound a call
To mark the end of this.
Look. There's the hill top where we fought
Old Foxfoot. Look, there in the whin.
Old ruffian knave! Come on! Fall in!
|Works by this author are in the public domain in countries where the copyright term is the author's life plus 51 years or less.|