Only — if there were some who dared to forget
We are foredoomed, our Table Round a-scatter,
Merlin’s old sayings wise as the daws that chatter
Harsh through these ruins — we might do bravely yet.
We might die somewhat like men, or play as well
As any bloody hand outdicing Hell.
The leak of treachery being sprung, our youth
Out of our veins in desperate pastime seeping,
Might we not choose to set the lost fires leaping?
To make our courage, that last of follies, truth,
And a springe set for our patient enemies?
This wave will bear us down. But still the touch
Of comrade hands is ours, the laughter in eyes,
Should we not love the garlanded ox too much.
Arthur, Ogier the Dane, he trapped at Roncesvalles,
Many a stern eye under a captain brow,
And the gamesters’ deft white hands are near us now,
And the light, dry whisper flickers: "How did they fall?"
We will dream not of victory, friend. We grow wise too late,
And I tell you, the tide engulfs us. Yet grandeur is wrung
From the casual answers, the stoic death of a state.
They will yield us no mercy, no. But a song might be sung.