In the candle-light and among prayers at night,
Among trophies of war and serene peaceful fires,
Children lived steeped in books, far from crude, real-life fights,
By their childish mishaps mortified.
Somehow kids always feel
A disgust with their age,
And in fights we would spill
Hidden hurt and dark rage.
But our mothers would mend
Those patched-up rags of ours,
While our hearts would be rent
By the books we devoured.
Then our foreheads would suddenly glisten with sweat,
We would feel as if endlessly falling through space,
As the rumble of battle turned our little heads
And we breathed in the smell of old dust and suspense.
We whoíd seen no wars fought,
Either big ones or small
(Someone howled - and we thought:
What a brave, daring call).
We would try to divine
The deep meaning of orders,
Of attacks, skirmish lines,
And the purpose of borders.
In the cauldrons of battles fought ages ago
There was much food for thought, for our little live brains.
We appointed our enemies to play the roles
Of cowards, Judases, traitors and such, in our games.
We would always see through
Any villainous ploys,
We would ever stay true
To sweet maids of our choice;
Upright warriors at heart,
We would spoil for the fray -
The heroic parts
Ourselves we would play.
But you canít live forever in this make-believe.
Games are over quite soon - so much grief in the land!
So you have to begin in real earnest to live
And to take up the arms from dead menís tired hands.
Still warm armour put on,
Take your fatherís old sword -
And youíll very soon learn
Who is who and whatís what.
Coward or hero - this
Will be easy to see,
You will know how it feels
In a real fight to be.
When a friend in a battle at your side falls dead,
And your heart is with anguish about your loss filled,
When your whole soul feels raw, as if you had been flayed,
All because it was he, and not you, who got killed,
You will know your twin foes -
They are Evil and Lie,
For wherever they go
People die, people die
So that these two might live,
These assassins depraved.
Where these ghouls go, they leave
Only ravens and graves.
If you hacked your way through with your fatherís old sword,
For the loss of your comrades-in-arms tears shed,
If in fierce bloody battles you learnt what is what -
We can say that in childhood the right books you read.
But if meat off a knife
You have not even tried.
If in all of your life
You have not taken sides,
Never joined in the strife
With the base, the unfair -
Then youíve been in this life
Neither here, nor there!