Amid evening prayers, taper-wax on the floor,
Amid old war trophies and peaceful bonfires,
There lived book-children who’d never known war
Aching from child’s disasters and child’s desires.
Children are all frustrated
By their age and state
And we fought unto skinned knees,
Unto mortal hate,
But our mothers would patch
Our clothes on time
While we devoured books
Going drunk on the lines.
Our hair would stick to our foreheads with sweat
And the sentences would sweetly suck in our throats,
And the smell of the battle would dizzy us yet
As it flew to us from yellowed pages and notes.
And, taking a howl
For warcries, we who
Had never known war,
Tried to comprehend true
The secret of "orders",
The war-chariots’ crack,
The intention of borders
And the meaning of "attack".
And in the boiling pots of the wars of the past
There is so much food for our childish brains!
And in the roles of traitors and cowards we cast
Our rivals and enemies within our games.
And we didn’t let dry
Our villains’ salt tears,
And we swore to the sky
To love fair maids for years,
And we comforted friends
And our kin loved and praised
And into the roles of heroes
Ourselves we all raised.
But they can’t last forever, those dreams where we fled -
Playtime’s short, for all around there is pain.
Try now to unclasp the hands of the dead
And to take up their weapons to press on again.
As the sword is still warm
And now yours, try it out
Put on armour and know
What’s this all about!
Find if you are craven
Or fate’s chosen one
And yourself know the savour
Of how true battle’s done.
And when your bleeding friend falls down at your side
And you’ll howl at the first loss that you ever knew,
And when you’ll feel as if you have lost your own hide
Because there it was him who was killed and not you -
You will know that you’ve found
You’ve found out, you’ve seen,
You’ve marked the grinning visors
For that is Death’s grin!
Lies and evil - now mind
How their face cruel grows
And always behind
Are coffins and crows!
If you never ate one piece of meat from a knife
If you folded your arms and looked down at life
And to battle with traitors you didn’t heed the call
- Then in life you’ve had nothing to do with it all!
If you swallowed salt tears
And kept pressing out
Using your father’s sword
To hack out your way
If in battle’s heat
You saw what’s it about -
Then you read the right books
When at childhood’s play!