Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WAR-SONGS: 3, by TYRTAEUS



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WAR-SONGS: 3, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I would not value, or transmit the fame
Last Line: Press, press to glory; nor remit the war!
Alternate Author Name(s): Tyrtaios
Subject(s): War


I WOULD not value, or transmit the fame
Of him whose brightest worth in swiftness lies;
Nor would I chaunt his poor unwarlike name,
Who wins no chaplet but the wrestler's prize.

In vain, for me, the Cyclops' giant might
Blends with the beauties of Tithonus' form;
In vain the racer's agile powers unite,
Fleet as the whirlwind of the Thracian storm.

In vain, for me, the riches round him glow
A Midas or a Cinyras possest;
Sweet as Adrastus' tongue his accents flow,
Or Pelops' sceptre seems to stamp him blest.

Vain all the dastard honours he may boast,
If his soul thirst not for the martial field;
Meet not the fury of the rushing host,
Nor bear o'er hills of slain the untrembling shield.

This—this is virtue: This—the noblest meed
That can adorn our youth with fadeless rays;
While all the perils of the adventurous deed,
The new-strung vigour of the state repays.

Amid the foremost of the embattled train,
Lo, the young hero hails the glowing fight;
And, though fall'n troops around him press the plain,
Still fronts the foe, nor brooks inglorious flight.

His life—his fervid soul opposed to death,
He dares the terrors of the field defy;
Kindles each spirit with his panting breath,
And bids his comrade-warriors nobly die!

See, see, dismayed, the phalanx of the foe
Turns round, and hurries o'er the plain afar:
While doubling, as afresh, the deadly blow,
He rules, intrepid chief, the waves of war

Now fall'n, the noblest of the van, he dies!
His city by the beauteous death renowned;
His low-bent father marking, where he lies,
The shield, the breastplate, hacked by many a wound.

The young—the old, alike commingling tears,
His country's heavy grief bedews the grave;
And all his race in verdant lustre wears
Fame's richest wreath, transmitted from the brave.

Though mixed with earth the perishable clay,
His name shall live, while glory loves to tell,
"True to his country how he won the day,
How firm the hero stood, how calm he fell!"

But if he 'scape the doom of death, (the doom
To long—long dreary slumbers,) he returns,
While trophies flash, and victor-laurels bloom,
And all the splendour of the triumph burns.

The old—the young—caress him, and adore;
And with the city's love, through life, repaid,
He sees each comfort, that endears, in store,
Till, the last hour, he sinks to Pluto's shade.

Old as he droops, the citizens, o'erawed,
(Ev'n veterans,) to his mellow glories yield;
Nor would in thought dishonour or defraud
The hoary soldier of the well-fought field.

Be yours to reach such eminence of fame;
To gain such heights of virtue nobly dare,
My youths! and, 'mid the fervour of acclaim,
Press, press to glory; nor remit the war!





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