"Men Lied To Them, And So They Went To Die"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This sonnet deals with both the tragedy and the triumph of man's noble sacrifice in deceived and unavailing efforts to champion truth and goodness. For man's destiny is to lose himself in an unfortunate, unappreciated cause or to endure the long misery of disillusionment and purposelessness. "For life deals thus with Man;/ To die alone deceived or with the mass,/ Or disillusioned to complete his span." Those who die in battle united in a common cause, though they are exhorted and commanded by the lies of others, are fortunate to have their purposeful visions. Those who are not fortunate enough to die for their concept of truth are likely to live to see their truth for what it is–a lie. Even the sceptics offer themselves through natural inclination and trust that somehow they will not have died in vain. Since self-sacrifice is natural to man, even necessary to him, all great incidents of such sacrifice are similar; the participants are equally victimized, the tragic consequences are equally unavoidable. Thermopylae and Golgotha are one, "the young dead legions in the narrow pass;/ The stark black cross against the setting sun." The poem begins:

Men lied to them, and so they went to die.
Some fell, unknowing that they were deceived,
And some escaped, and bitterly bereaved,
Beheld the truth they loved shrink to a lie. . . .