‘Hello, Soldier!’

The Common Men

Edward Dyson

THE GREAT MEN framed the fierce decrees
    Embroiling State with State;
They bit their thumbs across the seas
    In diplomatic hate;
They lit the pyre whose glare and heat
    Make Hell itself seem cold;
The flames bloomed red above the wheat,
Their wild profusion wreathed the street—
Then in the smoke and fiery sleet
    The common men took hold.

Where Babel was with Bedlam freed,
    And wide the gates were flung;
To chaos, while the anarch breed
    In all the world gave tongue,
The common men in close array,
    By mountain, plain and sea,
Went outward girded for the fray,
On one dear quest, whate’er they pay
In blood and pain—the open way
    To keep for Liberty.

The common men who never tire,
    Unsightly in the mirk
Of caking blood and smoke and mire,
    Push forward with their work;
A while in foulest pits entombed,
    Resistless, still and slow,
Burnt, broken, stifled, seeming doomed,
Past where the flowers of Satan bloomed,
Up gutted hills with shell-breath plumed,
    The stubborn armies go.

Contending in the shattered sky
    In empyrean wars,
The sons of simple men out-vie
    God’s splendid meteors;
Where’er the mills of Vulcan roared
    And blinked against the night,
Swart shapes with sweat-washed eyes have stored
The clean, lean lightnings of the Lord
To be a league-long, leaping sword
    In this our holy fight.

The small men know the burden well,
    The dreadful paths they know,
With fear and death and torture dwell.
    And sup and sleep with, woe.
They’re riven in the shrapnel gust,
    But; blind and reeling, plan
Another blow, a final thrust
To subjugate the tyrant’s lust.
So, bleeding, blundering in the dust,
    Men fight and die for man.

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