Guest poem sent in by Frank O'Shea
(Poem #1145) War Song of the Saracens
We are they who come faster than fate: we are they who ride early or late: We storm at your ivory gate: Pale Kings of the Sunset, beware! Not on silk nor in samet we lie, not in curtained solemnity die Among women who chatter and cry, and children who mumble a prayer. But we sleep by the ropes of the camp, and we rise with a shout, and we tramp With the sun or the moon for a lamp, and the spray of the wind in our hair. From the lands, where the elephants are, to the forts of Merou and Balghar, Our steel we have brought and our star to shine on the ruins of Rum. We have marched from the Indus to Spain, and by God we will go there again; We have stood on the shore of the plain where the Waters of Destiny boom. A mart of destruction we made at Jalula where men were afraid, For death was a difficult trade, and the sword was a broker of doom; And the Spear was a Desert Physician who cured not a few of ambition, And drave not a few to perdition with medicine bitter and strong: And the shield was a grief to the fool and as bright as a desolate pool, And as straight as the rock of Stamboul when their cavalry thundered along: For the coward was drowned with the brave when our battle sheered up like a wave, And the dead to the desert we gave, and the glory to God in our song.
The recent Andrew Motion poem [Poem #1143] is a good reminder of the reasons people go to war, all the more relevant in view of the gadarene buildup going on as I write. As a follow-up, I suggest the following Flecker warning - surprisingly, it has not been run before. It's from a different age, but the pale kings of the sunset who lie in silk and samet might do well to remember that as Michael Collins put it long ago "The victory is not to those who can inflict the most but to those who can endure the most" (or something like that). Think of the billions invested in the Star Wars program and then read the chilling "The shield was a grief to the fool and as bright as a desolate pool." Scary. Frank [Martin adds] As is often the case with Flecker, I find myself getting swept along by the sheer magnificent sound and rhythm of the words, and the almost overly-vivid imagery. This may have elements of warning in it, but in tone and feel it is very much a war poem. You can almost hear the drums in the background, and the pounding of horses' hooves. Not a 'pretty' poem, but one with a visceral, shiver-inducing intensity that grips the reader whether or not he agrees with the sentiment.