Niccolo Degli Albizzi composed the following poem in the 13th century. The English translation is by the Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882).
Millions of young men who rushed in patriotic waves 'to do their bit' in the great European adventure on the slaughter fields of Belgium and France had not read it. What many of them had read, and many times on English railway station platforms and barber shop corners, was Kitchener's poster 'Your Country Needs You!' or in Austria and Germany 'Your Kaiser Needs You!'. The power of propoganda is immense.
When the troops were returning from Milan
If you could see, fair brother, how dead beat
The fellows look who come through Rome today,-
Black yellow smoke-dried visages,- you'd say
They thought their haste at going all too fleet.
Their empty victual-waggons up the street
Over the bridge dreadfully sound and sway;
Their eyes as hang'd men's, turning the wrong way;
And nothing on their backs, or heads, or feet.
One sees the ribs and all the skeletons
Of their gaunt horses; and a sorry sight
Are the torn saddles, cramm'd with straw and stones.
They are ashamed, and march throughout the night;
Stumbling, for hunger, on their marrowbones;
Like barrels rolling, jolting, in this plight.
Their arms all gone, not even their swords are saved;
And each as silent as a man being shaved.