When in the line of cruel battle
When the anguish and the fear and the cries to gods rise up
When the spears shatter and the knees buckle and the bowels loosen
When the ground is mud beneath and the longing comes to dig down and sleep and rest from sorrowful war
The man may stand and shout loud defiance
But when cruel battle continues its push
When companions turn and flee
When the man in an instant can suffer no more
And forgetting all pride he begs the bright gods with tears
No more, please no more
Will he turn, will he flee through the mud beneath?
Will his buckling knees carry him past the shattered spears and anguished cries?
Will the gods and companions call this man a coward
Who stands no more than he can
And flees and cries only when his warlike spirit has also fled
In the line of cruel battle?
Would that some god come and stand
In place of the man who flees and cries
Who speaks winged words instead of shaming and
Who wins the victory when none is deserved
When a man flees in the line of cruel battle.