Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Two Graves


First Ghost

To sepulcher my mouldy bones
I bough a pile of noble stones,
And half a year a sculptor spent
To hew my marble monument,
The stateliest to rear its head
In all this city of the dead.

And generations passing through
Will gape, and ask: What did he do
To earn this tomb so rich and rare,
In Attic grace beyond compare?
How was his life in honour spent,
To worthy this proud monument?

What did I do" Well, nothing much.
'Tis true I had the Midas touch.
A million pounds I made wherewith
To glorify the name: John Smith;
Yet not a soul wept for me when
Death raft me from my fellow men.
My sculptor wins undying fame,
While I, who paid, am just a name.

Second Ghost

A wooden cross surveys my bones,
With on it stenciled: Peter Jones.
And round it are five hundred more;
(A proper job did old man War!)
So young they were, so fresh, so fit,
So hopeful - that's the hell of it.

The old are sapped and ripe to die,
But in the flush of Spring was I.
I might have fathered children ten,
To come to grips with sterling men;
And now a cross in weeds to rot,
Is all to show how fierce I fought.

The old default, the young must pay;
My life was wasted, thrown away.
While people gladden, to forget
The bitterness of vein regret,
With not a soul to morn for me
My skull grins up in mockery.
. . . Pale crosses greet the grieving stars,
And always will be - War and Wars.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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