David Lewis Paget
The Homecoming - Poem by David Lewis Paget
He'd been away with the army then
For almost twenty years,
And walking back to his village he
Had expected smiles and tears,
He thought his wife would be waiting there
Though his son, he knew, was grown,
He'd been away and protecting them
Though the soldier, now, was home.
He saw the village had barely changed
Though the people stood and stared,
He thought that they were in awe of him
Could it be the village cared?
They took in his battered breastplate and
The dents that marked his greaves,
The helmet that had been battered and
The blood on his chain-mail sleeves.
He'd walked for several miles since when
His horse had collapsed and died,
It weathered many a battle but
Fell foul of the countryside,
But soon he'd take off his armour when
He would meet again his bride,
And she would make him a pottage, and
Rejoice that he hadn't died.
He'd tramped in the lands of Burgundy
He'd fought in the land of Gaul,
He'd taken the Cross to Saladin
And wept at the Wailing Wall.
His face bore scars from the sword and lance
And a mace had raked his back,
From a knight behind who had been struck blind
In a frontal, forced attack.
He'd waded deep in a sea of blood,
He'd trampled a field of bones,
And helped to bury his comrades there
Marking the place with stones,
But now his body was tired and worn
It was leave the field, or die,
His horse had brought him wandering home
To the village of Burton Rye.
His wife came out from the cottage door
And she blanched, and shook in fear,
‘I don't know where you are coming from
But you don't belong in here! '
He glanced at the short and thickened form
That he didn't recognise,
‘Are you the wife I've been fighting for,
If so, my memory lies! '
‘You went away in another life
Leaving none to warm my bed,
I took a shine to the blacksmith here,
Fell in love with him, instead.
It's twenty years since you went away
Did you think you could return?
You've lived the life of a soldier, all
You do, is pillage and burn.'
‘I had to go to protect you here,
Out there, it's a world at war,
I've fought the enemy everywhere
To keep the pain from your door.
I loved you when you were slim and young
And your eyes were bright with cheer, '
His shoulders slumped and he turned away,
‘I see I'm not wanted here! '
31 July 2014
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