Roy William Gotaas

Rookie (20th century / England)

We Few: On St Crispin's Day. 2010

The bitch witch, or rather, who,
Drove me to madness,
Left me for dead and I too
Looked for the same:
Prayed for it, begged and called
For it, wished and hoped for an end.

Unless you’ve known that no-man’s-land,
Where all’s pain and bleakness
Unending and unutterable,
We have no common tongue:
I can’t swap travellers tales with you
Or speak of the road home.

The dead and whole are honoured
And if they should return,
Besieged with questions
About near-death:
What was it like and
Was the promise kept?

But I was only wounded and the damaged
Are brought home at night, in decent darkness.
Not shaming for the victim but for those
At home on his St Crispin’s Day.
The ones who stayed away from life
And had no stomach for the fight.

Some wounds upset the whole:
Worst of them all the damaged mind.
Better the prosthetic limb,
The eye-patch or the empty sleeve.
The invisible is frightful and,
We fear, contagious.

But we unhappy few, we band of brothers
May, since we share the inward bleeding,
Find in each others empathy
That which brings us back to life again.
For he that sheds his blood with me,
As Shakespeare said, shall gentle his condition.

As William S put it:
'.... he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart......
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.'

Submitted: Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Edited: Friday, July 16, 2010

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