Propped on a stick he viewed the August weald;
Squat orchard trees and oasts with painted cowls;
A homely, tangled hedge, a corn-stooked field,
With sound of barking dogs and farmyard fowls.
And he’d come home again to find it more
Desirable than ever it was before.
How right it seemed that he should reach the span
Of comfortable years allowed to man!
Splendid to eat and sleep and choose a wife,
Safe with his wound, a citizen of life.
He hobbled blithely through the garden gate,
And thought; “Thank God they had to amputate!”
A lady watches from the
Enthusiastic, flushed, and proud.
“Oh! there’s Sir Henry Dudster! Such
a splendid leader!
How pleased he looks! What rows of ribbons on his tunic!
Such dignity.... Saluting.... (Wave your flag ... now, Freda!)...
Yes, dear, I saw a Prussian General once,—at Munich.
“Here’s the next carriage!... Jack
was once in Leggit’s Corps;
That’s him!... I think the stout one is Sir Godfrey Stoomer.
They must feel sad to know they can’t win any more
Great victories!... Aren’t they glorious men?... so full of humour!”
TWELVE MONTHS AFTER
Hullo! here’s my platoon, the lot I had last
“The War’ll be over soon.”
“No bloody fear!”
Then, “Number Seven, ’shun! All present and correct.”
They’re standing in the sun, impassive and erect.
Young Gibson with his grin; and Morgan, tired and white;
Jordan, who’s out to win a D.C.M. some night:
And Hughes that’s keen on wiring; and Davies (’79),
Who always must be firing at the Boche front line.
* * * * *
“Old soldiers never die; they simply fide a-why!”
That’s what they used to sing along the roads last spring;
That’s what they used to say before the push began;
That’s where they are to-day, knocked over to a man.
Well, how are things in Heaven? I wish you’d
Because I’d like to know that you’re all right.
Tell me, have you found everlasting day,
Or been sucked in by everlasting night?
For when I shut my eyes your face shows plain;
I hear you make some cheery old remark—
I can rebuild you in my brain,
Though you’ve gone out patrolling in the dark.
You hated tours of trenches; you were proud
Of nothing more than having good years to spend;
Longed to get home and join the careless crowd
Of chaps who work in peace with Time for friend.
That’s all washed out now. You’re beyond the wire:
No earthly chance can send you crawling back;
You’ve finished with machine-gun fire—
Knocked over in a hopeless dud-attack.