To N.S., Who Died in Battle
I knew you glad to go; I envied you.
To pour the glory of your young life forth
In one libation—what more happy lot?
Be spared the slow, sad drip of dreams and hopes. Of loves and memories, that leaves us dry
And bitter, seared and bleared with creeping age—
Who would not die in battle? Life cut short?
Nay, blossomed in a moment, rich with fruit,
Blossom and fruit together, which the years
Might never ripen, uneventful years
Of nursery-gardening one small, precious self,
Which seeds and dies and none knows why it was.
I knew you glad to go; you knew not why—
The sting of high adventure in your blood,
The salt of danger savoring nights and days;
And in your heart the wave of some unknown
Deep feeling shared with comrades, that bore you on
The tideways that the coward never knows,
Nor he who hoards his life for his own ends.
O happy boy, you have not lost your years!
You lived them through and through and in those brief days
When you stood facing death. They are not lost:
They rushed together as the waters rush
From many sources; you had all in one.
You filled your little cup with all experience,
And drank the golden foam, and left the dregs,
And tossed the cup away. Why should we mourn
Your happiness? You burned clear flame, while he
Who treads the endless march of dusty years
Grows blind and choked with dust before he dies,
And dying goes back to the primal dust,
And has not lived so long in those long years
As you in your few, vibrant golden months
When like a spendthrift you gave all you were.