The Legion Of Iron

A poem by Lola Ridge

They pass through the great iron gates -
Men with eyes gravely discerning,
Skilled to appraise the tunnage of cranes
Or split an inch into thousandths -
Men tempered by fire as the ore is
And planned to resistance
Like steel that has cooled in the trough;
Silent of purpose, inflexible, set to fulfilment -
To conquer, withstand, overthrow...
Men mannered to large undertakings,
Knowing force as a brother
And power as something to play with,
Seeing blood as a slip of the iron,
To be wiped from the tools
Lest they rust.

But what if they stood aside,
Who hold the earth so careless in the crook of their arms?

What of the flamboyant cities
And the lights guttering out like candles in a wind...
And the armies halted...
And the train mid-way on the mountain
And idle men chaffing across the trenches...
And the cursing and lamentation
And the clamor for grain shut in the mills of the world?
What if they stayed apart,
Inscrutably smiling,
Leaving the ground encumbered with dead wire
And the sea to row-boats
And the lands marooned -
Till Time should like a paralytic sit,
A mildewed hulk above the nations squatting?

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