Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
From “Sigurd the Volsung.” II. The Burghers’ Battle
 
William Morris (1834–96)
 
 
THICK rise the spear-shafts o’er the land
That erst the harvest bore;
The sword is heavy in the hand,
And we return no more.
The light wind waves the Ruddy Fox,        5
Our banner of the war,
And ripples in the Running Ox,
And we return no more.
Across our stubble acres now
The teams go four and four;        10
But outworn elders guide the plough,
And we return no more.
And now the women, heavy-eyed,
Turn through the open door
From gazing down the highway wide,        15
Where we return no more.
The shadows of the fruitéd close
Dapple the feast-hall floor;
There lie our dogs and dream and doze,
And we return no more.        20
Down from the minster tower to-day
Fall the soft chimes of yore
Amidst the chattering jackdaws’ play:
And we return no more.
But underneath the streets are still;        25
Noon, and the market’s o’er!
Back go the goodwives o’er the hill;
For we return no more.
What merchant to our gates shall come?
What wise man bring us lore?        30
What abbot ride away to Rome,
Now we return no more?
What mayor shall rule the hall we built?
Whose scarlet sweep the floor?
What judge shall doom the robber’s guilt,        35
Now we return no more?
New houses in the streets shall rise
Where builded we before,
Of other stone wrought otherwise;
For we return no more.        40
And crops shall cover field and hill,
Unlike what once they bore,
And all be done without our will,
Now we return no more.
Look up! the arrows streak the sky,        45
The horns of battle roar;
The long spears lower and draw nigh,
And we return no more.
Remember how, beside the wain,
We spoke the word of war,        50
And sow’d this harvest of the plain,
And we return no more.
Lay spears about the Ruddy Fox!
The days of old are o’er;
Heave sword about the Running Ox!        55
For we return no more.
 

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