XIX. To an Athlete Dying Young from "The Shropshire Lad"
by A. E. Housman (1859-1936)
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high. To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields were glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.
For you Mom and Dad during World War 2, for my ancestors both white and Native American, for everyone from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, the Indian Wars, all terrorist attacks in America, at our embassies, consults and missions, Lebanon, Granada, Panama, Viet Nam, Korea, Mozambique, the Balkans, our peacekeepers in Egypt, the Gulf War, the Iraqi War.... Grant them peace.