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Lay His Sword By His Side


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I wanted to share this poem with you.

There is nothing particularly esoteric, subtle or even sophisticated about this poem. Sword just sees blood - no friend or enemy. The dead swordsman has picked up some of its character traits, and his shade is to some extent as amoral as his instrument: he wants it to go to someone who knows how to use it best. The human aspect is still there, in the form of xenophobia, which naturally a sword does'nt have and which was the motivation behind the dead swordsman's actions. "Its point was still turn'd to a flying foe" - even from the grave his ghost tries to smite at them.

Therefore, a sort of tormented soul: he equally wants to rest in peace and to that end have his sword at his side, and yet to be true to his own warrior code of conduct (which defines his being) he is still loyal to the cause he presumably died for, and would like to continue to be of some use in that effort. A sobering thought...

Lay His Sword By His Side by Thomas Moore

Lay his sword by his side -- it hath served him too well

Not to rest near his pillow below;

To the last moment true, from his hand ere it fell,

Its point was still turn'd to a flying foe.

Fellow-labourers in life, let them slumber in death,

Side by side, as becomes the reposing brave --

That sword which he loved still unbroke in its sheath,

And himself unsubdued in his grave.

Yet pause -- for, in fancy, a still voice I hear,

As if breathed from his brave heart's remains; --

Faint echo of that which, in Slavery's ear,

Once sounded the war-word, "Burst your chains."

And it cries, from the grave where the hero lies deep,

"Though the day of your Chieftain for ever hath set,

Oh leave not his sword thus inglorious to sleep --

It hath victory's life in it yet!

"Should some alien, unworthy such weapon to wield,

Dare to touch thee, my own gallant sword,

Then rest in thy sheath, like a talisman seal'd,

Or return to the grave of thy chainless lord.

But, if grasp'd by a hand that hath learn'd the proud use

Of a falchion, like thee, on the battle-plain,

Then, at Liberty's summons, like lightning let loose,

Leap forth from thy dark sheath again!"

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