William Stokes: The Soldier

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

William Stokes: Selections on peace and war

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William Stokes
The Soldier

I saw him in his childhood,
While sporting on the green;
No sweeter bud, no lovelier flower,
The village dames had seen.

I saw him shoot in stature,
The tallest of his race;
He carried greatness in his mien,
And beauty in his face.

I saw him in his manhood,
A noble man was he;
He stood confess’d, the bravest there –
The freest of the free.

I saw him when deluded,
By words of dark deceit;
He little thought that words so fair
Were spoken by a cheat.

I saw him clothed in scarlet,
With gaudy plume and lace;
He sat upon a noble steed,
With yet more noble grace.

I saw him after battle,
To misery doomed for life;
He rued the day when first he heard
The sound of drum and fife.

I saw him wan and wretched,
A cripple, begging bread;
The “pamper’d menial” drove him forth,
With curses on his head.

I saw his last lone dwelling,
The rags and broken stool;
He breath’d out dying words and said,
“The soldier is a fool!”