Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IO VICTIS, by WILLIAM WETMORE STORY



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IO VICTIS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I sing the hymn of the conquered, who fell in the battle of life
Last Line: Pilate or christ?
Subject(s): Jesus Christ; Religion; Theology


I SING the hymn of the conquered, who fell in the Battle of Life, --
The hymn of the wounded, the beaten, who died overwhelmed
in the strife;
Not the jubilant song of the victors, for whom the resounding acclaim
Of nations was lifted in chorus, whose brows wore the chaplet of fame,
But the hymn of the low and the humble, the weary, the
broken in heart,
Who strove and who failed, acting bravely a silent and desperate part;
Whose youth bore no flower on its branches, whose hopes
burned in ashes away,
From whose hands slipped the prize they had grasped at, who
stood at the dying of day
With the wreck of their life all around them, unpitied,
unheeded, alone,
With Death swooping down o'er their failure, and all but
their faith overthrown,

While the voice of the world shouts its chorus, -- its
paean for those who have won;
While the trumpet is sounding triumphant, and high to the
breeze and the sun
Glad banners are waving, hands clapping, and hurrying feet
Thronging after the laurel-crowned victors, I stand on the
field of defeat,
In the shadow, with those who have fallen, and wounded, and
dying, and there
Chant a requiem low, place my hand on their pain-knotted
brows breathe a prayer,
Hold the hand that is helpless, and whisper, "They only the
victory win,
Who have fought the good fight, and have vanquished the
demon that tempts us within;
Who have held to their faith unseduced by the prize that
the world holds on high;
Who have dared for a high cause to suffer, resist, fight,
-- if need be, to die."

Speak, History! who are Life's victors? Unroll thy long
annals, and say,
Are they those whom the world called the victors -- who won
the success of a day?
The martyrs, or Nero? The Spartans, who fell at Thermopylae's tryst,
Or the Persians and Xerxes? His judges or Socrates?
Pilate or Christ?





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