I AM an ancient reluctant conscript.
On the soup wagons of Xerxes I was a cleaner of pans.
On the march of Miltiades’ phalanx I had a haft and head;
I had a bristling gleaming spear-handle.
Red-headed Cæsar picked me for a teamster.
He said, “Go to work, you Tuscan bastard,
Rome calls for a man who can drive horses.”
The units of conquest led by Charles the Twelfth,
The whirling whimsical Napoleonic columns:
They saw me one of the horseshoers.
I trimmed the feet of a white horse Bonaparte swept the night stars with.
Lincoln said, “Get into the game; your nation takes you.”
And I drove a wagon and team and I had my arm shot off
At Spottsylvania Court House.
I am an ancient reluctant conscript.