Edgehill Fight

(CIVIL WARS, 1642)

Rudyard Kipling

NAKED and grey the Cotswolds stand
    Beneath the autumn sun,
And the stubble-fields on either hand
    Where Stour and Avon run.
There is no change in the patient land
    That has bred us every one.

She should have passed in cloud and fire
    And saved us from this sin
Of war—red war—’twixt child and sire,
    Household and kith and kin,
In the heart of a sleepy Midland shire,
    With the harvest scarcely in.

But there is no change as we meet at last
    On the brow-head or the plain,
And the raw astonished ranks stand fast
    To slay or to be slain
By the men they knew in the kindly past
    That shall never come again—

By the men they met at dance or chase,
    In the tavern or the hall,
At the justice-bench and the market-place,
    At the cudgel-play or brawl—
Of their own blood and speech and race,
    Comrades or neighbours all!

More bitter than death this day must prove
    Whichever way it go,
For the brothers of the maids we love
    Make ready to lay low
Their sisters’ sweethearts, as we move
    Against our dearest foe.

Thank Heaven! At last the trumpets peal
    Before our strength gives way.
For King or for the Commonweal
    No matter which they say,
The first dry rattle of new-drawn steel
    Changes the world to-day!

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