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Robert Graves (1895–1985). Fairies and Fusiliers. 1918.

41. The Assault Heroic

DOWN in the mud I lay,

Tired out by my long day

Of five damned days and nights,

Five sleepless days and nights,…

Dream-snatched, and set me where

The dungeon of Despair

Looms over Desolate Sea,

Frowning and threatening me

With aspect high and steep—

A most malignant keep.

My foes that lay within

Shouted and made a din,

Hooted and grinned and cried:

“Today we’ve killed your pride;

Today your ardour ends.

We’ve murdered all your friends;

We’ve undermined by stealth

Your happiness and your health.

We’ve taken away your hope;

Now you may droop and mope

To misery and to Death.”

But with my spear of Faith,

Stout as an oaken rafter,

With my round shield of laughter,

With my sharp, tongue-like sword

That speaks a bitter word,

I stood beneath the wall

And there defied them all.

The stones they cast I caught

And alchemized with thought

Into such lumps of gold

As dreaming misers hold.

The boiling oil they threw

Fell in a shower of dew,

Refreshing me; the spears

Flew harmless by my ears,

Struck quivering in the sod;

There, like the prophet’s rod,

Put leaves out, took firm root,

And bore me instant fruit.

My foes were all astounded,

Dumbstricken and confounded,

Gaping in a long row;

They dared not thrust nor throw.

Thus, then, I climbed a steep

Buttress and won the keep,

And laughed and proudly blew

My horn, “Stand to! Stand to!

Wake up, sir! Here’s a new

Attack! Stand to! Stand to!”