“Here dead we lie…”

May 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here dead we lie because we did not choose
  To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
  But young men think it is, and we were young.

– A. E. Housman

There are certain people (to be sure) who, oblivious to Housman’s irony, believe that this is a patriotic poem. It isn’t. The first two lines are actually a translation of a Greek epitaph on the fallen soldiers at Thermopylae. The final two lines undercut the first ones by exposing the absurd notion that one should give up one’s only life for an arbitrary border on immemorial land.

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