Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
The Hero
By John Russell McCarthy
BOMB and ball and shell
Had done their work so well
That, after many weeks,
The city fell—
(To save the women, so the burghers said.)        5
Then with red-dripping sword,
We, the enemy, poured
Down through the streets
To know what spoils the city might afford.
(What are the spoils of war?)        10
A corporal, nameless, with a little troop
Of nameless men, has stopped before a stoop
Whose door’s ajar.
The corporal laughs. “Ha! Note the family group!”
(A man and wife, three daughters—and a dog.)        15
Ten of the soldiers enter. “Seize the goat.
No, no, don’t shoot him—cut the villain’s throat.
That’s right, a little blood. Don’t splutter so, you fool, before the ladies.
What, not dead yet? You’ve bled a quart, you bloat!”
(A corporal must have his joke, you know.)        20
“Well, let him die. There’s tastier business now.
Here, you two nearest, strip me that old sow.
Too fat by far—but get those rags off, boys—
That’s it. Now tie her up, so she can see the row.”
(What are the spoils of war?)        25
“Now for the ninnies. Three to each, and quick!
Hell!—what a form! She’d make a queen look sick!
She’s mine. You take the others,
And when you’re through, a butt’ll do the trick.”
(A rifle butt is a handy thing, they say.)        30
An hour later.—“Stretch them in a row.
The old sow’s fainted. Didn’t like the show,
Perhaps. Fat—ugh! Better unburden her belly—
That’s it—a twist of the sword. Well, bring the dog, and off we go.”
(A mascot’s good to keep the spirits up.)
.    .    .    .    .    .    .
Again the howl of war;
Again the roar
Of cannon, and the rain
Of bombs from ships that soar.
(And we must win, for God is on our side!)        40
The devilish enemy
Force onward, sullenly.
We are turned, driven, routed—
Drop everything, and flee.
(Why does not God uphold the right?)        45
But see! The flag is raised
And waved aloft! Amazed,
But ready to be led, we turn about.
’Tis the work of the very God we praised.
(Men can do worse than follow a flag.)        50
And there in the mighty din
We win,
And turn to see who bore the colors back.
We gather round and hem the hero in—
(A nameless corporal, now to be named forever.)
.    .    .    .    .    .    .
Mark where the hero stands,
A banner in his hands;
Banner of bronze in hands of bronze!
Bronze on granite forever he stands.
(Was he not chosen of God?)        60

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