Home > Uncategorized > Hermann Hagedorn: Slaughter! And voices, begging shrill the merciful grace of death.

Hermann Hagedorn: Slaughter! And voices, begging shrill the merciful grace of death.

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

American writers on peace and against war

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Hermann Hagedorn
From Makers of Madness
A Play in One Act and Three Scenes

Night! And a black and barren sky
With a wet wind in from the coast.
And only the kites to make reply
To heaving body and pleading cry –
Here where the lost battalions lie,
I walked last night with a ghost.

His face was gray, his hands were red,
And a ghostly mare he rode,
That wearily stepped, with drooping head,
Over the shadowy lines of dead,
And rolled her eyes, and shook with dread
Under her foam-white load.

The ghost turned not to left or right.
But mutely he beckoned me,
And moved like a pillar of livid light
Through the humid dark of the foggy night,
With eyes deep-sunken and greenly bright
As phosphor on the sea.

He led me where in ghostly files
The dead slept with their toys.
Miles, miles, and never-ending miles,
Along the valley’s mournful aisles,
The voiceless, vague, misshapen piles
Of men and golden boys!

He led me up the gory hill
By wood and sodden heath.
Ravage! And faces, lone and chill,
In the murmuring wash of the willow-rill!
Slaughter! And voices, begging shrill
The merciful grace of death.

A waning moon broke, sickly pale,
Through the muddy fog’s disguising;
And over the breadth of the ghastly vale
The battle-wake like a steamer’s trail,
And a heaving as of waves in a gale,
Rising and falling and rising!

And out of the air, and up from the plain,
The ancient battle-story! –
Of stricken love and laughter slain,
And hearts beneath the hoofs of pain –
But not a breath of human gain,
And not a word of glory.

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