Verse > Anthologies > Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed. > The Book of New York Verse
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Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed.  The Book of New York Verse.  1917.
 
After the Play
By Hamilton Fish Armstrong
 
Broadway, 1916

THE GREAT gold room is heavy with the scent
Of flowers crushed by dancers, and smoke, and wine;
The little tables with clustered glasses shine.
And always through the buzzing merriment
And through the thump of tired musicians’ play        5
I hear the drums an ocean’s breadth away—
 
Away—and shaded candles hiss and dance
Into the air—and burst—my pulses quiver—
I smell the stinking field, and ’cross the river
I see a fringe of mud-swamped guns that glance        10
When shells come whining toward the bitter pit
Of ploughed-up reddened muck and powder-grit—
 
Ploughed-up and red with blood. But what is blood
To placid prattlers in another world,
Who only recall the showy flags unfurled        15
And waving scarfs, as on the curb they stood
Some years ago and watched a regiment pass
With jaunty step and cheerful blare of brass?
 
Yes, what is blood to those in puppet-land?
Hung on a new gilt cord they jerk and swing        20
Compliant with the propitious breeze and sing
Self-satisfied thoughtless tunes, nor seek the hand
That strings them there—discreet torpidity,
With ears that hear not, eyes that will not see.
 
There is a sudden stir, and waiters run        25
To catch a man whose flabby face goes grey.
“He’s dead!” the whisper comes. The musicians’ play
Stops. A few white-lipped women have begun
To cry a little. And all are soon outside.
Yet this day twenty thousand men have died.        30
 
 
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