"But what good came of it at last?" Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why, that I cannot tell," said he; "But 'twas a famous victory."
What did it really matter? The poet was asking of the triumph of the Duke of Marlborough -- "Who this great fight did win."
What brings back this poem about the transience of glory and folly of war -- during this week's struggle over whose flag will fly over Crimea -- is a wall chart that just arrived from the UN.
"World Population 2012" projects the population growth, or decline, of every country and continent, between now and 2050.
Most deeply involved in Crimea's crisis are Russia and Ukraine. Yet, looking at the UN numbers, there seems an element of absurdity in this confrontation that could lead to a shooting war.
Between 2012 and 2050, Ukraine, war or no war, will lose one-fourth of its population. Eleven to twelve million Ukrainians will vanish from the earth, a figure far higher than the highest estimate of the death toll of the horrific Holodomor of 1932-33.
Russia will lose 22 million people, with her population falling below 121 million. Every month between now and 2050, close to 50,000 Russians will disappear.
Some demographers believe the UN numbers to be optimistic. Indeed, this writer has seen projections far more dire.
Those who warn that Vladimir Putin is trying to reconstitute the Soviet Union might explain how this is going to be done as Russia loses 22 million people, while the former Soviet republics of Central Asia -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan -- together add 22 million people.
How often in history do nations with shrinking populations invade and annex those with surging populations?
When the UN was set up in 1945, Stalin wanted each of 15 Soviet republics given a seat in the General Assembly. He settled for three seats -- for Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia, now Belarus.
That was the core of the old Soviet Union. Yet, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine will lose together 35 million people by mid-century, a figure comparable to the human losses from four years of the Hitler-Stalin war and seven decades of Bolshevik rule.
Our War Party is demanding that we send military assistance and possibly troops to Poland, the Baltic republics and Rumania, and bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.
This would mean America would fight Russia to defend them all, should another clash occur as in 2008 in Georgia and today in Crimea. Does this make sense -- for any of us?