She rode a nag with harness marks
She held her brother's sword
She wore some battered armor
And the emblem of her lord
"O fetch me water, withered crone,
The least you owe," she cried
"To those like me, who for your sake
Have fought and who have died."
Warrior maid, warrior maid,
You're presumptuous and a fool
If you think for your poor sacrifice
That you deserve to rule!
Full thirty years, and five strong sons
I've given to this war.
So tell me what young warrior maid
Could possibly give more?
My men left me to tend the fields
While they went off to fight
My labors kept our soldiers fed
Preserved our fighting might
Full fifty lives or more I've saved
Through sweat and blood and tears
My beauty lost through field-work
And old before my years.
The boys I birth'd in pain and joy
Have spilt blood, each in turn.
Yet one by one I sent them out:
No hope of their return.
What mother would not rather die
Than see her children lost?
But dying is the coward's path
--I lived, and paid the cost.
I had a daughter, just like you,
Who also rode away.
One death she gave, and only one,
Was all that she would pay.
Her sisters stayed at home
And gave a life of work, and more
The eldest of my six grandsons
Has gone to join the war
Copyright © 1995 Michelle Bottorff