aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

WW I poetry

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth's foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling,
And took their wages, and are dead.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.

-- A.E. Housman

In the First Battle of Ypres (1914), a whole regiment of British regulars was wiped out acting as rearguard to the retreating army. Derided as "mercenaries" by the Germans, who had a conscript army, Housman immortalized the professional soldiers of the British Army with these lines.
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