Shaemas O'Sheel


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They went forth to battle, but they always fell


They went forth to battle, but they always fell


They went forth to battle, but they always fell
Their eyes were fixed above the sullen shields
Nobly they fought and bravely, but not well
And sank heart-wounded by a subtle spell.
They knew not fear that to the foeman yields,
They were not weak, as one who vainly wields
A futile weapon; yet the sad scrolls tell
How on the hard-fought field they always fell.

It was a secret music that they heard
A sad sweet plea for pity and for peace;
And that which pierced the heart was but a word,
Though the white breast was red-lipped where the sword
Pressed a fierce cruel kiss, to put surcease
On its hot thirst, but drank a hot increase.
Ah, they by some strange troubling doubt were stirred,
And died for hearing what no foeman heard.

They went forth to battle, but they always fell;
Their might was not the might of lifted spears;
Over the battle-clamour came a spell
Of troubling music, and they fought not well.
Their wreaths are willows, and their tribute, tears;
Yet they will scatter the red hordes of Hell,
Who went to battle forth and always fell.

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