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Edgehill Fight

by Rudyard Kipling, 1919

(Civil WARS, 1642)

NAKED and grey the Cotswolds stand
  Beneath the autumn sun,
And the stubble-fields on either hand
  Where Stour and Avon run.
There is no change in the patient land
  That has bred us every one.

She should have passed in cloud and fire
  And saved us from this sin
Of war—red war—’twixt child and sire,
  Household and kith and kin,
In the heart of a sleepy Midland shire,
  With the harvest scarcely in.

But there is no change as we meet at last
  On the brow-head or the plain,
And the raw astonished ranks stand fast
  To slay or to be slain
By the men they knew in the kindly past
  That shall never come again—

By the men they met at dance or chase,
  In the tavern or the hall,
At the justice-bench and the market-place,
  At the cudgel-play or brawl—
Of their own blood and speech and race,
  Comrades or neighbours all!

More bitter than death this day must prove
  Whichever way it go,
For the brothers of the maids we love
  Make ready to lay low
Their sisters’ sweethearts, as we move
  Against our dearest foe.

Thank Heaven! At last the trumpets peal
  Before our strength gives way.
For King or for the Commonweal
  No matter which they say,
The first dry rattle of new-drawn steel
  Changes the world to-day!

Published in Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Inclusive Edition, 1885-1918

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