The Castle by Edwin Muir
All through that summer at ease we lay,
And daily from the turret wall
We watched the mowers in the hay
And the enemy half a mile away.
They seemed no threat to us at all.
For what, we thought, had we to fear
With our arms and provender, load on load,
Our towering battlements, tier on tier,
And friendly allies drawing near
On every leafy summer road.
Our gates were strong, our walls were thick,
So smooth and high, no man could win
A foothold there, no clever trick
Could take us, have us dead or quick.
Only a bird could have got in.
What could they offer us for bait?
Our captain was brave and we were true. . .
There was a little private gate,
A little wicked wicket gate.
The wizened warder let them through.
Oh then our maze of tunneled stone
Grew thin and treacherous as air.
The cause was lost without a groan,
The famous citadel overthrown,
And all its secret galleries bare.
How can this shameful tale be told?
I will maintain until my death,
We could do nothing, being sold;
Our only enemy was gold,
And we had no arms to fight it with.
Sterling characters can fight gold.
Muir was born in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. He is best known for translating Kafka.