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The Unconquered Dead

Composed by John McCrae


“...defeated, with great loss.”

Not we the conquered! Not to us the blame Of them that flee, of them that basely yield; Nor ours the shout of victory, the fame Of them that vanquish in a stricken field.

That day of battle in the dusty heat We lay and heard the bullets swish and sing Like scythes amid the over-ripened wheat, And we the harvest of their garnering.

Some yielded, No, not we! Not we, we swear By these our wounds; this trench upon the hill Where all the shell-strewn earth is seamed and bare, Was ours to keep; and lo! we have it still.

We might have yielded, even we, but death Came for our helper; like a sudden flood The crashing darkness fell; our painful breath We drew with gasps amid the choking blood.

The roar fell faint and farther off, and soon Sank to a foolish humming in our ears, Like crickets in the long, hot afternoon Among the wheat fields of the olden years.

Before our eyes a boundless wall of red Shot through by sudden streaks of jagged pain! Then a slow-gathering darkness overhead And rest came on us like a quiet rain.

Not we the conquered! Not to us the shame, Who hold our earthen ramparts, nor shall cease To hold them ever; victors we, who came In that fierce moment to our honoured peace.

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