Timor Mortis

'For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother . . . . .
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here.'

King Henry V–Act IV, sc. 3 (King's speech prior to the battle of Agincourt).
I WEND my ways with one dire dread
Now daily in my heart:
The fear of death obsesses me–
The fear that I may pass
Too soon for my desiring eyes to see

The English camps, and for my feet to tread
The English green-sward grass;
That I, who've heard my God's, my King's, my Country's claims
And, though belated, have at length begun
A larger life of holier aims
Than was my wont, may suddenly depart
This shattered world to utter oblivion,
Ere I, in Christian chivalry,
With brave, devoted comrades dauntlessly have stood face to the foe
On Flanders' fatal fields and struck a single blow
For man's dear brotherhood and world-wide liberty,
Or ere, upon the blood-steeped slopes
Of France, I've met–mine eyes afront, my soul quite undismayed–
The Hunnish cannons' fearful fusilade
Or done my share to still the Hunnish hopes,
And thus to leave secure, ev'n if by my poor martyrdom,
A happier heritage to generations yet to come.
Dear God, oh, privilege me the fullest bloom
Of vital-strength, that I may pay the price
For my too selfish, easeful days; spare me to live
That I, if it should be Thy will, may sacrifice
The meagre all I now can give,
And, falling, lie obscurely laid within a nameless tomb.
Perchance, round where mine unknown grave may be,
Unshaded by Canadian maples, unsung by winds from my Acadian sea,
I shall in spirit-state revisit foreign slope or plain
On which I fell, and there aloft descry
The Flag of England still flaunting victory to the sky,
'Neath where the hellish holocaust once swept amain,
And I shall know I died not in dishonour nor in vain,
But that I may, at home, in peace, untried, yield up my breath–
This is my direst dread, my fear, of thee, O Death!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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