Thursday, August 31, 2006

Soldier Ask Not and the Aeneid

I haven't read the Aeneid but today I was listening to a lecture about it. 

The lecturers premise was the Aeneid was Virgil's answer to the Iliad and the Odyssey and was his attempt to put Rome and Roman culture into perspective against Greek culture. 

As it was related in the lecture while Greece was an older and more sophisticated culture, it was also one which placed the individual above the group, whereas Roman culture was a series of duties which placed the group first.

That made me think of this song from Soldier Ask Not, a novel in Gordon Dickson's Childe Cycle.

Soldier, ask not - now, or ever,
Where to war your banners go.
Anarch's legions all surround us.
Strike - and do not count the blow!

Glory, honor, praise and profit,
Are but toys of tinsel worth.
Render up your work, unasking,
Leave the human clay to earth.

Blood and sorrow, pain unending,
Are the portion of us all.
Grasp the naked sword, opposing,
Gladly in the battle fall.

So shall we, anointed soldiers,
Stand at last before the Throne,
Baptized in our wounds, red-flowing,
Sealed unto our Lord - alone!

Don't know why it just seemed appropriate.  Actually it is surprising I still remember that poem, the last time I read it I think I was about 13.  Another one that I remember is from Jerry Pournelle's Falkenberg's Legion Series.

"We've left blood in the dirt of twenty-five worlds,
We've built roads on a dozen more,
And all that we have at the end of our hitch
Buys a night with a second-class whore.
The Senate decrees, the Grand Admiral calls,
The orders come down from on high.
It's 'On Full Kits' and 'Sound Board Ships,'
We're sending you where you can die."

"The lands that we take, the Senate gives back,
Rather more often than not,
But the more that are killed, the less share the loot,
And we won't be back to this spot.
We'll break the hearts of your women and girls,
We may break your arse, as well,
Then the Line Marines with their banners unfurled
Will follow those banners to hell.
We know the devil, his pomps, and his works,
Ah, yes! We know them well!
When you've served out your hitch in the Line Marines,
You can bugger the Senate of Hell!"

"Then we'll drink with our comrades and throw down our packs,
We'll rest ten years on the flat of our backs,
Then it's 'On Full Kits' and out of your racks,
You must build a new road through Hell!
The Fleet is our country, we sleep with a rifle,
No man ever begot a son on his rifle,
They pay us in gin and curse when we sin,
There's not one that can stand us unless we're downwind,
We're shot when we lose and turned out when we win,
But we bury our comrades wherever they fall,
And there's none that can face us, though we've nothing at all."

I actually performed that one as my dramatic reading for my 10th grade speech class.  The instructor wasn't thrilled, especially since he was a flaming commie and I was offering it as a commentary on American Foreign Policy and the Soldier.

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