Treasure Island

Robert Graves

(1895 - 1985 / London / England)

A Rhyme Of Friends


Listen now this time
Shortly to my rhyme
That herewith starts
About certain kind hearts
In those stricken parts
That lie behind Calais,
Old crones and aged men
And young children.
About the Picardais,
Who earned my thousand thanks,
Dwellers by the banks
Of mournful Somme
(God keep me therefrom
Until War ends)--
These, then, are my friends:
Madame Averlant Lune,
From the town of Bethune;
Good Professeur la Brune
From that town also.
He played the piccolo,
And left his locks to grow.
Dear Madame Hojdes,
Sempstress of Saint Fe.
With Jules and Susette
And Antoinette.
Her children, my sweethearts,
For whom I made darts
Of paper to throw
In their mimic show,
'La guerre aux tranchees.'
That was a pretty play.

There was old Jacques Caron,
Of the hamlet Mailleton.
He let me look
At his household book,
'Comment vivre cent ans.'
What cares I took
To obey this wise book,
I, who feared each hour
Lest Death's cruel power
On the poppied plain
Might make cares vain!

By Noeus-les-mines
Lived old Adelphine,
Withered and clean,
She nodded and smiled,
And used me like a child.
How that old trot beguiled
My leisure with her chatter,
Gave me a china platter
Painted with Cherubim
And mottoes on the rim.
But when instead of thanks
I gave her francs
How her pride was hurt!
She counted francs as dirt,
(God knows, she was not rich)
She called the Kaiser bitch,
She spat on the floor,
Cursing this Prussian war,
That she had known before
Forty years past and more.

There was also 'Tomi,'
With looks sweet and free,
Who called me cher ami.
This orphan's age was nine,
His folk were in their graves,
Else they were slaves
Behind the German line
To terror and rapine--
O, little friends of mine
How kind and brave you were,
You smoothed away care
When life was hard to bear.
And you, old women and men,
Who gave me billets then,
How patient and great-hearted!
Strangers though we started,
Yet friends we ever parted.
God bless you all: now ends
This homage to my friends.

Submitted: Thursday, April 01, 2010
Edited: Thursday, April 01, 2010

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