Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings, or the poem. It's called How Did You Die? by Edmund Vance Cooke.
Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
My entire life had been spent preparing for this fight. The war was all I'd ever known, all I'd ever trained for. I wasn't the only one, either. All boys were raised, and taught how to fight at an early age. I trained among them, but I was different. Once I was old enough, I would be their captain. My brother as well. It was a simple, well known fact. They knew this. They accepted it. They looked to us for leadership and guidance, faith and hope. But, what the people didn't seem to grasp is that men are not immortal or invincible. They die, lose faith and courage. Leaders of men, like my brother and me, did not always have the answers the men so desperately wanted. There were times when even I, the Captain General of Gondor, questioned the war and its purpose. I did not know whether it was a cause worth fighting for anymore. My faith and hope dwindled low, even lower than the fiery pits of Moria.
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?
I trained, and trained, and fought, and trained some more. The Great Eye of Sauron watched our progress from the cursed, desolate land of Mordor, and when he saw that we were building in arms and hope, he sent one of his many armies of Orcs to crush that hope, and bring down the number of arms. It got to the point where our people were completely losing their hope and faith. The men were fast losing courage and some forgot why we were fighting what they deemed to be a hopeless cause.
You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there –that's disgrace.
I would tell them that there was hope, that death was not the end. After all, if you died in war, well, that's the best way to go. After a time, however, even those words I had so ardently spoken, began to lose their charm. I forgot what I had been fighting for, when my brother would take my place and say something along the same lines, and hope would be kindled again. A small, tiny, miniscule flame of hope, against an enormous fire of rage and death. The words would work, and we would win a battle, or two, or twelve, and that tiny flame would become a spark, that jumped from log to log, catching everything on fire.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts,
It's how did you fight –and why?
The men would listen, their hope and courage would be renewed, and everything would be better. For a time. Until various bands of Orcs attacked again, and we would be back in the exact same situation, fighting to strengthen our people on words alone. We were losing men fast, and the men that remained hoped for reinforcements from Rohan. However, soon words reached our ears of the fact that Saruman had taken over the mind of King Theoden, and no such reinforcements would be sent. That was when the little flame of hope went out. Occasionally, there would be a spark, or small light, but after that news came, the hope left the people. And as their captain, it was my fault. No one said it of course, but I should have been the one giving them hope, restoring their faith. My brother and I were the only ones left to fight the war, with hopeless and faithless bodies surrounding us.
And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
This quest had been my last chance to return hope to my people. The Ring would have helped, I was sure of it. Frodo seemed so afraid after I tried to take the Ring. He knew what it was capable of. I did not. I could still remember with cruel clarity what had happened. The Ring had a mind and voice of its own, that swallowed and consumed whoever it had the misfortune of meeting.
Though, I hoped that with this last stand, trying to save Merry and Pippin, I would somehow redeem myself to my companions. I did not like Aragorn. I had made that very clear from the beginning. But, his words, spoken as if I was his brother, his equal, made a difference. I knew the grave error I had made. I knew with absolute certainty that the Ring would not have helped my people. It would have destroyed and decimated until all that remained was blood, bodies, and ash.
I had played my part in the world, and I had enjoyed what fleeting joy life brought me, so I died in peace. I died knowing that no matter what, somehow, Aragorn son of Arathorn would take Boromir son of Denathors' place in bringing hope and courage to the people. I died, knowing that somehow, someway, one day, there would be peace in the world. There would be no war, no fighting, and there would be happiness. I only wished I had been there to see it.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?