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The Casterbridge Captains

 THREE captains went to Indian wars,
And only one returned:
Their mate of yore, he singly wore
The laurels all had earned.
At home he sought the ancient aisle Wherein, untrumped of fame, The three had sat in pupilage, And each had carved his name.
The names, rough-hewn, of equal size, Stood on the panel still; Unequal since.
--"'Twas theirs to aim, Mine was it to fulfil!" --"Who saves his life shall lose it, friends!" Outspake the preacher then, Unweeting he his listener, who Looked at the names again.
That he had come and they'd been stayed, 'Twas but the chance of war: Another chance, and they'd sat here, And he had lain afar.
Yet saw he something in the lives Of those who'd ceased to live That rounded them with majesty Which living failed to give.
Transcendent triumph in return No longer lit his brain; Transcendence rayed the distant urn Where slept the fallen twain.

Poem by Thomas Hardy
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Book: Shattered Sighs