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RED FEAST

Go fight you fools, tear up the earth with strife, And spill each others’ guts upon the field. Serve unto death the men you served in life, So that their great dominions may not yield.

Stand by the flag the lie that still allures, Lay down your lives for lands you do not own, And give unto a war that is not yours Its gory tithe of mangled flesh and bone.

But whether in the fray you fall or kill It is not yours to question why or where. You see those tiny crosses on yon hill? It took all those to make one millionaire.

It was for him the seas of blood were shed, That fields were razed and cities lit the sky, That he might come to chortle o’er the dead – The condor Thing for whom the millions die!

The bugle screams, the cannons cease to roar. “Enough! Enough! God give us peace again.” The rats, the maggots and the lords of war Are fat to bursting from their meal of men.

So stagger back, you stupid dupes who’ve “won”, Back to your stricken towns to toil anew, For there your dismal tasks are still undone And grim Starvation gropes again for you.

What matters now your flag, your race, the skill Of scattered legions – what has been the gain? Once more beneath the lash you must distil Your lives to glut a glory wrought of pain.

In peace they starve you to your loathsome toil, In war they drive you to the teeth of death: And, when your life-blood soaks into the soil, They give you lies to choke your dying breath.

So they will smite your blind eyes until you see, And lash your naked backs until you know That wasted blood can never set you free From fettered thraldom to the common foe.

Then you will find that “nation” is a name And boundaries are things that don’t exist: That Labour’s bondage, world-wide, is the same, And ONE the enemy it must resist.

Ralph Chaplin, 1914

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