Stumbling, like bright-eyed, newborn fawns,
Injured, trailing blood, we crossed the plains,
Before the blazing suns of many dawns
We toward oases walked, ignoring pains.
Babes trudged forth. Many had lost their fur
But limped on, rotting. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the purr
Of hungry, desperate lions that lurked behind.
Teeth! Claws! Quick, run!—An ecstasy of leaping,
Escaping laceration just in time;
But someone still was screaming out and weeping,
The struggles of he who’d just heard death’s chime.
Dim, through a mirage of the sun’s bent light,
As under a red sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He clambers to me, choking, bleeding, drowning.
If in some disturbing dreams you too could pace
That evening, after the danger had passed
And recall the cruor coloring his face,
His eyes like marbles, brown windows freshly glassed.
If you could hear the frantic, distant gasps
Come gurgling from a frothy, punctured throat,
His once proud bellows now reduced to rasps
With gaunt chest slowly stilling, far from a grassy cote,—
My friend, you would not say it for the best,
To children pleading for some bedtime story,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro natura mori.