The very earth turned bitter beneath the plodding feet
As the drums and trumpets sounded the lament of retreat,
And the very sky was ashen and the rivers ceased to flow –
The bending backs were lifeless and the pock-marked heads hung low.
The trees had lost their greenness and the sun its very kiss.
The dusk had lost its solitude and love its very bliss,
And all the Lord’s creations stood trembling at the sight
Of the evil wind and burning fire that dared corrupt the night.
Each man was naught but shadow in a swirl of drifting snow
And the pounding heart within him meant for less than he could know;
The figures moved before him and the ghosts tramped loud behind
As the curse of dreams decaying bore its cancer of the mind.
Now the very heavens weep, convulse and rack and churn
As men who thought of noble things become interred in turn –
How absurdity and irony find true refinement here –
That brave young gods should fall in war with none to shed a tear!