November 1, 2012

Elegy For Our Dead


Edwin Rolfe

There is a place where, wisdom won, right recorded,
men move beautifully, striding across fields
whose wheat, wind-marceled, wanders unguarded
in unprotected places; where earth, revived, folds
all growing things closely to itself: the groves
of bursting olives, the vineyards ripe and heavy with
glowing grapes, the oranges like million suns; and graves
where lie, nurturing all these fields, my friends in death.

With them, deep in coolness, are memories of France and
the exact fields of Belgium: midnight marches in snows -
the single-file caravan high in the Pyrenees: the land
of Spain unfolded before them, dazzling the young Balboas.
This earth is enriched with Atlantic salt, spraying
the live, squinting eyelids, even now, of companions -
with towns of America, towers and mills, sun playing
always, in stone streets, wide fields -- all men's dominions.

Honor for them in this lies: that theirs is no special
strange plot of alien earth. Men of all lands here
lie side by side, at peace now after the crucial
torture of combat, bullet and bayonet gone, fear
conquered forever. Yes, knowing it well, they were willing
despite it to clothe their vision with flesh. And their rewards,
not sought for self, live in new faces, smiling,
remembering what they did here. Deeds were their final words.


    Salud! Poems, Stories and Sketches of Spain by American Writers

[Much great culture came form the international campaign to save the Spanish Republic from falling to Franco's reactionary coup and its allies, Hitler and Mussolini in the late 1930s. The poetry is less known than, say, Picasso's Guernica, Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls, the incredible poster graphics or the songs of the International Brigades, Some of it is mighty fine, though, including this piece by Edwin Rolfe, a young communist from the US who fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.]

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