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Ernest Crosby: The Bugler in the Rear


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

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Crosby: Selections against war, for peace


Ernest Crosby
The Bugler in the Rear
To Rudyard Kipling

Strong bugler, whose deep-chested strain
Has cheered the march of man
From Simla to the coast of Maine,
From Cork to Kordofan,
Oh, tell me, while your rhythmic flow
Still fascinates my ear,
Why is it that you choose to blow
Your bugle in the rear?

For clarion notes like yours should sound
The order to advance –
The prophet’s thunder-words profound
That voice the prophet’s glance –
The prophet’s glance that first beholds
The new-born day appear;
You spy not what the future holds,
A-bugling in the rear.

Your bugle-note is that which calls
King Ramses to the fight,
Sculptured on Karnak’s crumbling walls
At twenty times his height.
Again you blow his ancient horn,
That pygmy tribes may fear,
You’re harking back to times outworn,
A-bugling in the rear.

Like you, the narrow Jew looked down
Upon the Gentile bands;
Like you, proud Romans used to frown
On broad, “barbarian” lands;
And Attila and Genghis Khan
Knew well your bugle bold;
For pagan, Jew, and Mussulman
Have heard its blare of old.

And so the Norman, when he came
Across the narrow wave,
And made the Anglo-Saxon name
The synonym for “slave”;
And so the Corsican who hurled
His bolts like hell unpent,
And won the hatred of the world
To soothe his banishment:

These, all of these, from times remote,
In every land and clime,
Have heard your ancient bugle-note
Of war and waste sublime;
And, ere man’s footstep ever fell
On mountain, plain, or shore,
It echoed in the tiger’s yell
And in the lion’s roar.

Know, then, that man shall not return
And seek the brutish past –
The jungle he has left – to learn
To scale the heights at last.
And this shall ever be the sign
To mark the leader true:
The poet is the man divine
Who tells us something new –

The man who tells us something new,
And points the road ahead;
Whose tent is with the forward few,
And not among the dead.
Then come, strong bugler of the rear,
And lead us in the van,
And blow this blast, as pioneer,
“The Brotherhood of Man.”

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