Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Unconquered Dead

“...defeated, with great loss.” 

Not we the conquered! Not to us the blame
   Of them that flee, of them that basely yield;
Nor ours the shout of victory, the fame
   Of them that vanquish in a stricken field.

That day of battle in the dusty heat
   We lay and heard the bullets swish and sing
Like scythes amid the over-ripened wheat,
   And we the harvest of their garnering.

Some yielded, No, not we! Not we, we swear
   By these our wounds; this trench upon the hill
Where all the shell-strewn earth is seamed and bare,
   Was ours to keep; and lo! we have it still.

We might have yielded, even we, but death
   Came for our helper; like a sudden flood
The crashing darkness fell; our painful breath
   We drew with gasps amid the choking blood.

The roar fell faint and farther off, and soon
   Sank to a foolish humming in our ears,
Like crickets in the long, hot afternoon
   Among the wheat fields of the olden years.

Before our eyes a boundless wall of red
   Shot through by sudden streaks of jagged pain!
Then a slow-gathering darkness overhead
   And rest came on us like a quiet rain.

Not we the conquered! Not to us the shame,
   Who hold our earthen ramparts, nor shall cease
To hold them ever; victors we, who came
   In that fierce moment to our honoured peace.


This poem is in the public domain.


John McCrae

John McCrae was born on November 30, 1872. A Canadian doctor and teacher who served in World War I, he is best known for his memorial poem “In Flanders Fields.” He died on January 28, 1918.

Date Published: 2018-11-02

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