At the Union

They are all come back to school again,
The old, worn-out men:
They are all come in, from the wind and the rain,
And the world which looks with cold disdain
On three score years and ten.

They are all come back once more to school,
Late, and tired, and slow,
To sit, as they sat, on the wooden stool,
Bowing themselves to the Master’s rule,
Sixty years ago.

Yet here, where the life-flame flickers and dies,
There are neither groans nor tears:
There is no rebellion in those old eyes,
There is neither anger or surprise –
After sixty years!

Oh, there’s many a lusty tree-trunk stands
Out in the glorious light –
There are roads and bridges and fertile lands –
Were born and were tended of these old hands
Now so weak and white.

There’s many a man outside this wall
Was riched by these poor men;
But the world loves lads that are strong and tall
And cares not a jot what fate befall
Three score and ten.

I cannot think that lives which began
With love and the cradle-kiss –
I cannot think that this godless plan –
I cannot think, if I think as a man,
That we breed men for this!

It makes my heart bleed tears of blood,
It makes a knife in my throat,
It makes me think of a second Flood,
It makes me think of the worms and the mud,
And the shark, and the hawk, and the stoat.