The Oracles

Tis mute, the word they went to hear on high Dodona mountain
     When winds were in the oakenshaws and all the cauldrons tolled,
And mute's the midland navel-stone beside the singing fountain,
     And echoes list to silence now where gods told lies of old.

I took my question to the shrine that has not ceased from speaking,
     The heart within, that tells the truth and tells it twice as plain;
And from the cave of oracles I heard the priestess shrieking
     That she and I should surely die and never live again.

Oh priestess, what you cry is clear, and sound good sense I think it;
     But let the screaming echoes rest, and froth your mouth no more.
'Tis true there's better boose than brine, but he that drowns must drink it;
     And oh, my lass, the news is news that men have heard before.

The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning;
     Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air.
And he that stands will die for naught, and home there's no returning.
     The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair.


   A.E. Housman

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