"As long as you do not contain
The truth of death and of rebirth,
An alien wanderer you remain
Upon a dark and troubled Earth."
The vaults are bright with silver light tonight,
As the moon trails her dress across the heavens.
While this moon maintains her ocean vigil,
The sea-washed air's a tonic everywhere.
Yet from the misty edges of the moor
Come armies marching bold beneath the stars.
A motley crowd they seem, undisciplined
And boisterous, all boasting of their deeds,
With armour clanking loud, strong bows and swords.
But these go by along a country road
Past cottages of thatch and steeples tall,
To fade into the night with Agincourt.
See, from the mist along the river, comes
Another column marching as to war.
These, with cruel coats of red, keep lines to
Scale the heights with Wolfe or stand at Waterloo.
Yet, falling in battle, they seem the same,
These ever growing mighty multitudes.
Now, from another quarter through the trees,
A line in khaki comes in fours, chanting,
With rolling drums, pipes, flags and banners, just
The same as those who fought those other fights.
These as well have faces which seem as known
As a close friend, as down the highway they
Stride in ranks, singing Tipperary's song.
Now these have tanks and ships of iron. Up
Above are birds of prey, with men apart,
Guarding this army's way through hail of steel.
Watch where across the meadow tread our last
Assemblies of the night. The moon shines clear
To show the many who in silence march
Still to go, now without a song, along
This road again, as their aircraft dive and
Swoop, while the summer night's transformed and Hell
Explodes across the road, the field strewn thick.
Never yet was devilish Death so skilful.
But yet are we with our own petard hoist.
What more intends pitiless Fate tonight
As we advance with deadly nuclear power?
For if these vaults so bright with silver light
Must find us born anew, we cannot go
Again the road beside the river through
The meadow by the trees to Agincourt -
That regressive route is barred for ever.
Let us watch the Instigator closely,
As the moon behind the clouds discreetly
Slips, releasing us from her spell. Is light
Within enough to see, with plans all sound,
All orders right, to give us peace tonight,
When her face she shows again, stirring the
Ocean forces at her hem still trailing?
Or must we fall upon the misty moor,
Not breathing the moon-kissed air until the dawn?
These are the questions we all must answer,
Til the risen sun sets us free at last.
4th March, 1961
Revised 24th March, 2000