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877                                Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

THESE, in the day when heaven was falling,
   The hour when earth’s foundations fled,
Follow’d their mercenary calling
   And took their wages and are dead.
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
   They stood, and earth’s foundations stay;
What God abandon’d, these defended,
   And saved the sum of things for pay.

878                                              Wenlock Edge

ON Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
   His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
   And thick on Severn snow the leaves.
’Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
   When Uricon the city stood:
’Tis the old wind in the old anger,
   But then it threshed another wood.
Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
   At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
   The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.
There, like the wind through woods in riot,
   Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
   Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
   It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
   Are ashes under Uricon.

879                                      ‘Is My Team Ploughing?

‘IS my team ploughing,
   That I was used to drive
And hear the harness jingle
   When I was man alive?’
Ay, the horses trample,
   The harness jingles now;
No change though you lie under
   The land you used to plough.
‘Is football playing
   Along the river shore,
With lads to chase the leather,
   Now I stand up no more?’
Ay, the ball is flying,
   The lads play heart and soul,
The goal stands up, the keeper
   Stands up to keep the goal.
‘Is my girl happy,
   That I thought hard to leave,
And has she tired of weeping
   As she lies down at eve?’
Ay, she lies down lightly,
   She lies not down to weep:
Your girl is well contented.
   Be still, my lad, and sleep.
‘Is my friend hearty,
   Now I am thin and pine,
And has he found to sleep in
   A better bed than mine?’

Yes, lad, I lie easy,
   I lie as lads would choose;
I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart,
   Never ask me whose.


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