They went forth to battle, but they always fell; Their eyes were fixed above the sullen shields; Nobly they fought and bravely, but not well, And sank heart-wounded by a subtle spell. They knew not fear that to the foeman yields, They were not weak, as one who vainly wields A futile weapon; yet the sad scrolls tell How on the hard-fought field they always fell.
It was a secret music that they heard, A sad sweet plea for pity and for peace; And that which pierced the heart was but a word, Though the white breast was red-lipped where the sword Pressed a fierce cruel kiss, to put surcease On its hot thirst, but drank a hot increase. Ah, they by some strange troubling doubt were stirred, And died for hearing what no foeman heard.
They went forth to battle but they always fell; Their might was not the might of lifted spears; Over the battle-clamor came a spell Of troubling music, and they fought not well. Their wreaths are willows and their tribute, tears; Their names are old sad stories in men's ears; Yet they will scatter the red hordes of Hell, Who went to battle forth and always fell.