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To the Belgians

O race that Cæsar knew,
That won stern Roman praise,
What land not envies you
The laurel of these days?
You build your cities rich
Around each towered hall, –
Without, the statued niche,
Within, the pictured wall.
Your ship-thronged wharves, your marts
With gorgeious Venice vied,
Peace and her famous arts
Were yours: though tide on tide
Of Europe’s battle scourged
Black fields and reddened soil,
From blood and smoke emerged
Peace and her fruitful toil.
Yet when the challenge rang,
“The War-Lord comes; give room!”
Fearless to arms you sprang
Agains the odds of doom.
Like your own Damien
Who sought that leper’s isle
To die a simple man
For men with tranquil smile,
So strong in faith you dared
Defy the giant, scorn
Ignobly to be spared,
Though trampled, spoiled, and torn,
And in your faith arose
And smote, and smote again,
Till those astonished foes
Reeled from their mounds of slain,
The faith that the free soul,
Untaught by force to quail,
Through fire and dirge and dole
Prevails, and shall prevail.
Still for your frontier stands
The host that knew no dread,
Your little, stubborn land’s
Nameless, immortal dead.


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Poem To the Belgians - Laurence Binyon