The Common Men

A poem by Edward Dyson

The great men framed the fierce decrees
Embroiling State with State;
They bit their thumbs across the seas
In diplomatic hate;
They lit the pyre whose glare and heat
Make Hell itself seem cold;
The flames bloomed red above the wheat,
Their wild profusion wreathed the street,
Then in the smoke and fiery sleet
The common men took hold.

Where Babel was with Bedlam freed,
And wide the gates were flung;
To chaos, while the anarch breed
In all the world gave tongue,
The common men in close array,
By mountain, plain and sea,
Went outward girded for the fray,
On one dear quest, whate'er they pay
In blood and pain, the open way
To keep for Liberty.

The common men who never tire,
Unsightly in the mirk
Of caking blood and smoke and mire,
Push forward with their work;
A while in foulest pits entombed,
Resistless, still and slow,
Burnt, broken, stifled, seeming doomed,
Past where the flowers of Satan bloomed,
Up gutted hills with shell-breath plumed,
The stubborn armies go.

Contending in the shattered sky
In empyrean wars,
The sons of simple men out-vie
God's splendid meteors;
Where'er the mills of Vulcan roared
And blinked against the night,
Swart shapes with sweat-washed eyes have stored
The clean, lean lightnings of the Lord
To be a league-long, leaping sword
In this our holy fight.

The small men know the burden well,
The dreadful paths they know,
With fear and death and torture dwell.
And sup and sleep with, woe.
They're riven in the shrapnel gust,
But; blind and reeling, plan
Another blow, a final thrust
To subjugate the tyrant's lust.
So, bleeding, blundering in the dust,
Men fight and die for Man.

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