My army, O, my army! The time I dreamed of comes!
I want to see your colours; I want to hear your drums!
I heard them in my boyhood when all men's hearts seemed cold;
I heard them as a Young Man
– and I am growing old!
My army, O, my army! The signs are manifold!
My army, O, my army! My army and my Queen!
I used to sing your battle-songs when I was seventeen!
They came to me from ages, they came from far and near;
They came to me from Paris, they came to me from Here! —
They came when I was marching with the Army of the Rear.
My Queen's dark eyes were flashing (oh, she was younger then!);
My Queen's Red Cap was redder than the reddest blood of men!
My Queen marched like an Amazon, with anger manifest —
Her dark hair darkly matted from a knife gash in her breast
(For blood will flow where milk will not
– her sisters knew the rest).
My legions ne'er were listed, they had no need to be;
My army ne'er was trained in arms
– 'twas trained in misery!
It took long years to mould it, but war could never drown
The shuffling of my army's feet in the hunger-haunted town —
A little child was murdered, and so Tyranny went down.
My army kept no order, my army kept no time;
My army dug no trenches, yet died in dust and slime;
Its troops were fiercely ignorant, as to the manner born;
Its clothes were rags and tatters, or patches worn and torn —
Ah, me! It wore a uniform that I have often worn!
The faces of my army were ghastly as the dead;
My army's cause was Hunger, my army's cry was "Bread!"
It called on God and Mary and Christ of Nazareth;
It cried to kings and courtesans that fainted at its breath —
Its women beat their poor, flat breasts where babes had starved to
. . . . .
My army! My army – I hear the sound of drums
Above the roar of battles – and, lo! my army comes!
Nor creed of man may stay it
– nor war, nor nation's law —
The pikes go through the firing-lines as pitchforks go through straw —
Like pitchforks through the litter, while empires stand in awe.