The Spartan's Farewell

"So, with your shield, or upon it",
my mother said, severe;
alas, her last words that, so vain,
and not "just come back here"!
But where is she
when I am pierced
to ease her soldier's pain?

"So, with your shield, or upon it",
my sweetheart said, dry eyes;
from boyhood on I knew my task
fighting a Spartan dies
but where is she
as my soul leaves
my cramping hand to grasp?

"So, with your shield, or upon it",
my father said, smiled, proud;
but doubt is all about me now,
removed the breeding's shroud.
Death's grinning skull
my mind recalls
as I lay in red snow.

Oh how I wish I had not slain,
had flown before the fray
brought disgrace hot and contempt cold
those that my path did lay!
Must life be vain
and death be vain
but for a warpèd mold?

Yet I have chosen, lackèd strength,
to overstep my cast,
thus led a sheep and struck to death
ere I did see at last.
Who could have changed
save for myself
that this is my last breath?

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