The Benefit Race

for Team Je Me Souviens
They gathered in the pale before the dawn
Checking stirrup and strap, harness and helm,
Pack and saddle. They talked
Of last night’s feasting.
Their cause is sober, so they drink;
The foe grim, so they jest.
Neither dour nor depressed,
Nor by some bleak humor possessed,
They are girded by what it used to mean to be free:
They go to war.
Not because war assures victory,
But because free people need not yield
That which they steward unfought. Free people
May meet the thief at hedgerow, stone wall, or boundary mark:
Even alone; even unarmed.
Ungently is how they choose to honor fellows
Drawn in part or in whole into that good night before the hour
Appointed. And now, at the signal, they mount up: they ride.
They, like Frost, have promises to keep
And miles to go before they sleep.

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