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Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935). Collected Poems. 1921.

III. Captain Craig, Etc.

18. The Field of Glory

WAR shook the land where Levi dwelt,

And fired the dismal wrath he felt,

That such a doom was ever wrought

As his, to toil while others fought;

To toil, to dream—and still to dream,

With one day barren as another;

To consummate, as it would seem,

The dry despair of his old mother.

Far off one afternoon began

The sound of man destroying man;

And Levi, sick with nameless rage,

Condemned again his heritage,

And sighed for scars that might have come,

And would, if once he could have sundered

Those harsh, inhering claims of home

That held him while he cursed and wondered.

Another day, and then there came,

Rough, bloody, ribald, hungry, lame,

But yet themselves, to Levi’s door,

Two remnants of the day before.

They laughed at him and what he sought;

They jeered him, and his painful acre;

But Levi knew that they had fought,

And left their manners to their Maker.

That night, for the grim widow’s ears,

With hopes that hid themselves in fears,

He told of arms, and fiery deeds,

Whereat one leaps the while he reads,

And said he’d be no more a clown,

While others drew the breath of battle.—

The mother looked him up and down,

And laughed—a scant laugh with a rattle.

She told him what she found to tell,

And Levi listened, and heard well

Some admonitions of a voice

That left him no cause to rejoice.—

He sought a friend, and found the stars,

And prayed aloud that they should aid him;

But they said not a word of wars,

Or of a reason why God made him.

And who’s of this or that estate

We do not wholly calculate,

When baffling shades that shift and cling

Are not without their glimmering;

When even Levi, tired of faith,

Beloved of none, forgot by many,

Dismissed as an inferior wraith,

Reborn may be as great as any.