"Poppies, Isles of Shoals," Childe Hassam, 1891, WikiArt photo.
“Poppies, Isles of Shoals,” Childe Hassam, 1891, WikiArt photo.

Shores of flowered hillsides wind-waving,
We rested, light-armed infantry, Achæans
Sailed to war, continually employed, iron
Wedge of horrid might, enemies repulsed,
Men as terror’s wrath, barren battlefields
Storming, spray of blood, sword and shield,
Stones and broken spears, first columns
Killed, we buried overlooking seashores,
Edge of poppy fields, seagulls winging
Beneath sunlit passing clouds.

In weary moments, I imagined wandering
Those lush banks, losing myself amongst
Sea-shoals, for as soldiers, we fight or die,
Fearing debilitating wounds, infections,
Broken men in ships returning home to
Die, wives and families burdened with
Such plights. For now fury and noise are
Quelled, having become what I dread,
Soldiers trained to kill without regard.

O! What madness has brought the gods
To war? Should earth be so decimated?
We are mortal soldiers, neither ambrosia
Fed nor rubbed, balms applied are blood
Of those we put to death, execution of
Cruelty, helmets and shields fall, beyond
My view fields of waving flowers do so
Invite, embrace of sunny petals, wind
Singing, refuge from this warring plague.

"Achilles tending Patroclus wounded by an arrow," vase inscription, circa 500 B.C. Wikipedia photo.
“Achilles tending Patroclus wounded by an arrow,” vase inscription, circa 500 B.C. Wikipedia photo.

Like wasted farmlands, my heart is sown
With salt, attacked we were at night, crying
Hail of arrows, distance ranged, shields
Raised high, our flanks tightened, my life
Eclipsed by stinging dart, vain hopes of
Ever returning home, for I have released
my mortal form to consoling fields, my
soul to warring gods, rising to redeeming
Light of cloud-swept ocean sun.

Dying reflections of Homeric Achæan soldier, “name
without a country,” arrow-wounded without hope, recorded in epic tradition. For more, about mainland
Dorian Greeks, see this link. 

Written whilst listening to “A Salty Dog” by Procol Harum,
for poetic cadence and rhythm, “a sand so white, and sea
so blue, nor mortal place at all.”

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