passed me in the freshly fallen snow,
muffled, his face unearthly grey;
heart gave a sudden leap
As I gazed on
a ghost of five and twenty years ago.
Halt! and my voice had the old accustomed ring
And he obeyed
it as it was obeyed
shrouded days when I too was one
Of an army of
young men marching
unknown. He turned towards me and I said :
'I am one of
those who went before you
years ago: one of the many who never returned,
Of the many
who returned and yet were dead.
We went where
you were going, into the rain and mud;
We fought as
you will fight
With death and
darkness and despair;
We gave what
you will give - our brains and our blood.
We thing we
gave in vain. The world was not renewed.
There was hope
in the homestead and anger in the streets
But the old
world was restored and we returned
To the dreary
field and workshop, and the immemorial feud
Of the rich
and poor. Our victory was our defeat.
retained where power has been misused
And youth was
left to sweep away
The ashes that
the fire had strewn beneath our feet.
But one thing
we learned: there is no glory in the deed
soldier wears a badge of tarnished braid;
heroes who have heard the rally and have seen
The glitter of
a garland round their head.
There is the
hollow victory. They are deceived.
But you, my
brother and my ghost, if you can go
there is no reward, no certain use
In all your
sacrifice, then honour is reprieved.
without hope is to fight with grace,
reconstructed, the false heart repaired
Then I turned
with a smile, and he answered my salute
As he stood
against the fretted hedge, which was like white lace.
Randhir Sinh of the 4/3 Gorkha Rifles