Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A SONG OF BATTLE, by SAMUEL VALENTINE COLE



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A SONG OF BATTLE, by            
First Line: How goes it, my brother, with you? Does the
Last Line: O you with the weapon of god—life's splendid and terrible sword!
Subject(s): Fights; Swords; Tyranny & Tyrants; Dictators


I

How goes it, my brother, with you? Does the battle go well or go ill?
I know what you need—we all need it, a little more fight in us still!

When once we have grappled with life and measured the things we meet,
And marked how the castles of youth collapse in the dust at our feet;

How first ideals decay, and our dream bereft of its wings
Plods wearily on through a mass of exceedingly practical things;

How sham slips over its face the mask of the good and the true,
And fools the people who like it (as most of the people do);

How merit is slow to rise, and honor gets worsted by guile,
Till doubt creeps into the mind, and asks, "Is it worth the while?"

Oh, then let some one among us step forward, though tongues be rife,
And sing, as best he is able, the song of the battle of life,—

No notes that tremble or falter, nor any that savor of wrong,
But such as a soldier would heed, when the bugle blows clear and strong.

II

Speak out the brave word, then, and say that life, on the worthiest plan,
Is a fight, and a good fight too, needing always the best in a man.

Temptations assail us, and lions forever are blocking the way;
And circumstance is a hydra: we slay him, and still we must slay.

We are born not to have, but to seek, to fight, to endure, to advance;
We are neither as beast nor as God: the roadway between is our chance.

We are men; thank God it is true; we would not be other than men,
Even though, in a world beyond this, we renew the old battle again.

"Fight on," stands the resolute word from the heroes of life who are gone;
The men who have conquered the fight are always the ones who fought on.

And would you have life glide along like a river all smooth to the sea?
Shall we in our pride look for things denied to the noblest? Not we.

We ask not to sit at our ease in some quiet and blissful abode,
To play on a golden harp, and to bask in the sun like a toad.

We ask, if there's aught to be done, in helping the large design
Of the good Lord God, for a part and a place in the firing line.

III

And blessed is he that can do, and blessed is he that will dare
And take, like the man he should be, his burden of work and of care.

Thrice blessed is he that endures and lives in the light of the word
Of the Master of men, who has sent us not peace upon earth, but a sword.

No part for the shirk and the coward, no place for the dolt and the fool
On earth, or in heaven above; 't is the worthy at last that bear rule.

For men of conviction and courage there never was sorrier need;
The Church has its cant; and the State its corruption, dishonor, and greed.

The world runs after the shadow, the world cleaves unto the dust,
Forgetting the thing that is life; and it fails, as ever it must.

Then stand to your work, my brother, and do it; you know that you can;
Stand firm to your duty, and show us the faith and the strength of a man.

To think right and feel right is good, but to do right is conqueror still;
Through all of God's worlds the great law is to follow "I ought" with "I will."

'T is better to wear than to rust, 't is better to spend than to hoard,
O you with the weapon of God—life's splendid and terrible sword!





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