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Alfred Noyes: The Victory Ball

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Alfred Noyes: Selections on war

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Alfred Noyes
The Victory Ball

The cymbals crash,
And the dancers walk,
With long white stockings
And arms of chalk,
Butterfly skirts,
And white breasts bare,
And shadows of dead men
Watching ’em there.

Shadows of dead men
Stand by the wall,
Watching the fun
Of the Victory Ball.
They do not reproach,
Because they know,
If they’re forgotten
It’s better so.

Under the dancing
Feet are the graves.
Dazzle and motley,
In long white waves,
Brushed by the palm-fronds
Grapple and whirl
Ox-eyed matron,
And slim white girl.

Fat wet bodies
Go waddling by,
Girdled with satin,
Though God knows why:
Gripped by satyrs
In white and black,
With a fat wet hand
On the fat wet back.

See, there’s one child
Fresh from school,
Learning the ropes
As the old hands rule.
God! how the dead men
Chuckle again,
As she begs for a dose
Of the best cocaine.

[Alternate lines:
God, how that dead boy
Gapes and grins
As the tom-toms bang
And the shimmy begins.]

“What do you think
We should find”, said the shade,
“When the last shot echoed
And peace was made?”
“Christ,” laughed the fleshless
Jaws of his friend,
“I thought they’d be praying
For worlds to mend,

“And making earth better
Or something silly
Like white-washing hell
Or Picca-damn-dilly.
They’ve a sense of humour,
These women of ours,
These exquisite lilies,
These fresh young flowers!”

“Pish”, said a statesman
Standing near,
I’m glad they keep busy
Their thoughts elsewhere!
We mustn’t reproach ‘em,
They’re young you see.”
“Ah”, said the dead men,
“So were we!”

Victory! Victory!
On with the dance!
Back to the jungle
The new beasts prance!
God, how the dead men
Grin by the wall,
Watching the fun
Of the Victory Ball.

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