Flanders, 1600

A hedgehog square of pike and gun;
The Spanish banner hoisted high.
The soldiers squint against the sun
And spot death’s cloud approaching nigh.

A wall of horsemen armed with steel;
Their armor gleams with pomp and flare.
The horses foam, the riders wheel
And, sharklike, circle ‘round the square.

A flash of flame, then smoke and death;
Confusion, panic gnaw like rats.
A Spaniard trembles with each breath
Then backs away, his nerve all snapped.

He tries to flee into the square,
The center’s safety’s in his reach.
A bearlike chest, a red-eyed glare;
His sergeant stops him in his tracks.

“You want to run, just like us all;
It’s natural when gripped by fear.
Remember, though, when panic calls
That dread’s where courage shines most clear.”

That field today is clear and clean,
No men and horses scream and die.
Yet bravery is evergreen:
A virtue—then and always—high.