The Battle of Britain
by C. Day Lewis
What did we earthbound make of it?
Of vapour trails, a vertiginously high
Swarming of midges, at most a fiery angel
Hurled out of heaven, was all we could descry.
How could we know the agony and the pride
That scrawled those fading signatures up there,
And the cool expertise of those who died
Or lived through the delirium of the air?
Grounded on history now, we re-enact
Such lives, such deaths. Time, laughing out of court
The newspaper stories and the faked
Statistics, leaves us only to record
What was, what might have been: fighter and bomber,
The tilting sky, tense moves and counterings,
Those who outlived that legendary summer;
Those who went down, its sunlight on their wings.
And you, unborn then, what will you make of it -
That shadow-play of battles long ago?
Be sure of this: they pushed to the uttermost limit
Their luck, skill, nerve. And they were young like you.