In my last post on my other blog (which discusses elements in fantasy literature), I proposed that one of the reason that combat/war motifs are so popular is that man have an innate desire to see good triumph over evil, as well as a drive to participate in that personally. However, in our modern civilized world, most people occupy positions that have little need for physical combat, and so many men feel a little alienated from this aspect of their psyches. And being placed at a distance from physical conflict, we are also distanced from some opportunities to cultivate courage. Now we may still learn how to be courageous; but it is not one of top priorities among our life lessons, which may be focused more upon such things as how to please the popular and how to be recognized by your peers. So many a school boy may have a somewhat vaguer notion of courage—what does it look like? and where does it come from?
He stands beside me on the battle-line
And scans the ranks of men opposing us,
His mind and body tense and ready. Mine
Are shaking, and I wonder if we must
Go forth to fight—perhaps the foe will yield,
Or send a representative to duel.
But no: they have no champion to field—
Only greater numbers. Fear would rule
Me save for him beside me, sword and shield
In hand and set to challenge any who’ll
Approach. Together, he has promised me,
We’ll go to battle ‘gainst the Philistines,
Together we will fight; together we
Intend to leave the battle-scene.
He stands above me never giving ground,
Engaging all who dare to challenge us,
His body hot and tiring. Mine was downed
With injury and plunged into the dust,
Just moments after we’d begun to fight.
I am not dead; for hope I may be healed
I’m faithfully defended by this Mighty
Man. But now the sword of bronze he wields
Against the foe begins to dull—he might
Do better here if only I could steel
Myself to move and hand him mine. But fear
Restrains my arm, and I remain upon
The earth while he endures, remaining near
Me as the battle rages on.
He stands beneath me on the bloody plain,
With me upon his shoulders. Both of us
Have lived, the consequence of all the pain
He has endured to satisfy my trust:
Together we will fight; together we’ll
Depart. Pity such a Mighty Man
Of Valor had no partner for his zeal,
Instead of fighting next to me. I can
Not understand what peace resides concealed
Within his breast, that he could calmly stand
Immune to fear of pain and dread of death.
I cannot understand how he retains
The strength to bear my injured form, when left
On him are twice my bloody stains.