Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TRAITORS OF CAPORETTO; A LEGEND OF TODAY, by ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON



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THE TRAITORS OF CAPORETTO; A LEGEND OF TODAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Whose feet are these that plod all day
Last Line: Shall perish as they fall.
Subject(s): Army - Italy; Caporetto, Battle Of (1917); Italy; Treason & Traitors; World War I; Italians; First World War


WHOSE feet are these that plod all day
The moon-white roads of Italy --
Strange prisoners of their guards in gray --
While children hoot and mongrels bay?
Who may the miscreants be?

Not theirs the gait of those who till;
They tread the paces of the court;
And, though they bear some shameful ill,
They yet were noble once, and still
Have trace of noble port.

See, on the shapely wrists well-born,
The clanking gyves, as they come nigh.
And how contemptuously torn
The missing gold once bravely worn
To please a woman's eye.

Can these be Austria's boasted blood,
Debased for some new cruelty --
Her honor draggled in the mud,
Her will swept aimless on the flood
Of Prussian perfidy?

No, read the riddle as they go:
Upon their backs once straight and proud,
One word -- that Italy may know
Who dealt her the betraying blow --
Cries "Traditore" loud.

These showed on Caporetto's day
Against their land a Judas-league
With those who scorn the knightly way
Of manly strength in open fray,
To conquer by intrigue.

Then was unstrung as brave a bow
As e'er o'ershot the walls of Troy.
The world was wondering still, when lo!
The conquered Alps, the conquered foe
Turned swift against Savoy.

Not Teuton valor did the deed:
These undissevered tongues it was
That spread the fatal lie, whose speed
Outruns the rout, while thousands bleed
To give the treason pause.

No knightly heritage could save
These whilom gentlemen of ease,
Who, adding cunning to the knave,
Cried not "Avanti" to their brave,
But poisoned words of peace.

They pass, from all the jeers and groans,
Whom other groans and jeers shall greet --
Now struck by Tuscan clods and stones,
Now spat upon by Umbrian crones,
And Rome is yet to meet!

There crowds shall prod them on their way
With oaths; and women near their time
Against the Evil Eye shall pray,
And patriot statues wreathed with bay
Shall clamor of their crime.

And one impatient dawn shall see
Each face turned toward a fortress wall,
And at a shout of musketry
Their all -- except their infamy --
Shall perish as they fall.





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