The stars wing down the western steep,
And soon the east will burn with day,
And we shall struggle up from sleep
And sling our packs and march away.
In this brief hour before the dawn
Has struck our bivouac with flame
I think of men whose brows have borne
The iron wreath of deadly fame.
I see the fatal phalanx creep,
Like death across the world and back,
With eyes that only strive to keep
Bucephalus’ immortal track.
I see the legion wheel through Gaul,
The sword and flame on hearth and home,
And all the men who had to fall
That Caesar might be first in Rome.
I see the horde of Genghis Khan
Spread outward like the dawn of day
To trample golden Khorassan
And thunder over fair Cathay.
I see the grizzled grenadier,
The dark dragoon, the gay hussar,
Whose shoulders bore for many a year
Their little emperor’s blazing star.
I see these things, still am I slave
When banners flaunt and bugles blow,
Content to fill a soldier’s grave
For reasons I shall never know.