The Longest Odds

Leonidas of Sparta, years gone by,
    With but a bare three hundred of his braves,
In the ravine of famed Thermopylæ
    Held up the Persian army’s endless waves.
Smiling, among the forest of his spears,
    “Lay down your arms,” the haughty Xerxes cried.
The Spartan’s answer echoes down the years,
    “Come here and take them!” So they fought, and died.

Horatius—the odds grow longer now—
    With two bold friends, Lars Porsena defied.
That dauntless trio registered a vow
    To hold the bridge that stemmed the Tiber’s tide.
Their deed of valous makes our bosoms glow,
    A deed which poets and chroniclers relate.
Three heroes held in check a bitter foe
    And saved their city from a cruel fate.

One Highlander—the longest odds of all—
    One man alone, when all the rest were slain,
Carried the Maxim through the bullet squall,
    And set it spitting at the foe again.
Under its hail the Germans broke, they fled.
    One man, one gun, and yet they would not stay!
Riddled with shot, his comrades found him dead.
    Dead? No! That Hieland laddie lives for aye.

This poem is in the public domain.