The Casterbridge Captains

Thomas Hardy 1840 - 1928

THREE captains went to Indian wars,
  And only one returned:
  Their mate of yore, he singly wore
  The laurels all had earned.

  At home he sought the ancient aisle
  Wherein, untrumped of fame,
  The three had sat in pupilage,
  And each had carved his name.

  The names, rough-hewn, of equal size,
  Stood on the panel still;
  Unequal since.--"'Twas theirs to aim,
  Mine was it to fulfil!"

  --"Who saves his life shall lose it, friends!"
  Outspake the preacher then,
  Unweeting he his listener, who
  Looked at the names again.

  That he had come and they'd been stayed,
  'Twas but the chance of war:
  Another chance, and they'd sat here,
  And he had lain afar.

  Yet saw he something in the lives
  Of those who'd ceased to live
  That rounded them with majesty
  Which living failed to give.

  Transcendent triumph in return
  No longer lit his brain;
  Transcendence rayed the distant urn
  Where slept the fallen twain.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, was a Scottish Minister, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and Professor of Eccesiastical History at Edinburgh University. more…

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"The Casterbridge Captains" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 3 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/36486/the-casterbridge-captains>.

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