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Short poem

Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

The Hosts

              1Purged, with the life they left, of all
              2That makes life paltry and mean and small,
              3In their new dedication charged
              4With something heightened, enriched, enlarged,
              5That lends a light to their lusty brows
              6And a song to the rhythm of their trampling feet,
              7These are the men that have taken vows,
              8These are the hardy, the flower, the élite,--
              9These are the men that are moved no more
            10By the will to traffic and grasp and store
            11And ring with pleasure and wealth and love
            12The circles that self is the centre of;
            13But they are moved by the powers that force
            14The sea for ever to ebb and rise,
            15That hold Arcturus in his course,
            16And marshal at noon in tropic skies
            17The clouds that tower on some snow-capped chair
            18And drift out over the peopled plain.
            19They are big with the beauty of cosmic things.
            20Mark how their columns surge! They seem
            21To follow the goddess with outspread wings
            22That points toward Glory, the soldier's dream.
            23With bayonets bare and flags unfurled,
            24They scale the summits of the world
            25And fade on the farthest golden height
            26In fair horizons full of light.

            27Comrades in arms there--friend or foe--
            28That trod the perilous, toilsome trail
            29Through a world of ruin and blood and woe
            30In the years of great decision--hail!
            31Friend or foe, it shall matter nought;
            32This only matters, in fine: we fought.
            33For we were young and in love or strife
            34Sought exultation and craved excess:
            35To sound the wildest debauch in life
            36We staked our youth and its loveliness.
            37Let idlers argue the right and wrong
            38And weigh what merit our causes had.
            39Putting our faith in being strong--
            40Above the level of good and bad--
            41For us, we battled and burned and killed
            42Because evolving Nature willed,
            43And it was our pride and boast to be
            44The instruments of Destiny.
            45There was a stately drama writ
            46By the hand that peopled the earth and air
            47And set the stars in the infinite
            48And made night gorgeous and morning fair,
            49And all that had sense to reason knew
            50That bloody drama must be gone through.
            51Some sat and watched how the action veered--
            52Waited, profited, trembled, cheered--
            53We saw not clearly nor understood,
            54But yielding ourselves to the master hand,
            55Each in his part as best he could,
            56We played it through as the author planned.


15] Arcturus: bright star ("bear watcher") in the constellation Boötes.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Alan Seeger, Poems, introduction by William Archer (London: Constable, 1919), pp. 138-40. PS 3537 E26 1917 ROBA.
First publication date: 1916
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/21

Form note: couplets and quatrains

Other poems by Alan Seeger