The Armies of the Lost

Sixty young men abreast in a room,
None of them knowing a thing about doom,
Their souls proscribed forever hence,
Armed primarily with innocence.

What wellness comes by stealth in the night
To alleviate the peasants' plight
Or add to the treasures of some king
A noble thing?

Their spirits adrift like ice in the sea,
Trolled up by panderers of grim misery,
Believing all that they hear,
Taught to trust, not fear.

What aid comes flying on wings of dread
To rain down fire on the already-dead,
While leaving babes in bandage clothes
Everywhere it goes?

Through all the miles of marble halls,
Where every principle of reason falls,
Rush the pious, the strong, the bold,
To rooms where their souls can be sold.

What happy fate came trickling down
From deep within a ruined town
Or stood beside a road and waved
At an army that it saved?

With morals big as thunder clouds,
Our servants stuff our funeral shrouds,
While closer than we care to think,
Our peoples' dreams all sink.

What longed-for hope marches up the stream,
Saying things that only seem
To have a nearness to some truth
You worshiped in your youth?

by Robert Hampton Burt
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