The Last Salute
In a far field, away from England, lies
A boy I friended with a care like love;
All day the wide earth aches, the keen wind cries,
The melancholy clouds drive on above.
There, separate from him by a little span
Two eagle cousins, generous, reckless, free,
Two Grenfells, lie, and my boy is made man,
One with these elder knights of chivalry.
Boy, who expected not this dreadful day,
Yet leaped, a soldier, at the sudden call,
Drank as your fathers, deeper though than they,
The soldier's cup of anguish, blood, and gall.
Not now as friend, but as a soldier, I
Salute you fallen. For the soldier's name
Our greatest honour is, if worthily
These wayward hearts assume and bear the same
The Soldier's is a name none recognise
Saving his fellows. Deeds are all his flower.
He lives, he toils, he suffers, and he dies,
And if not vainly spent, this is his dower.
The Soldier is the Martyr of a nation,
Expresses but is subject to its will,
His is the Pride ennobles Resignation
As his the rebel Spirit-to-fulfil.
Anonymous, he takes his country's name,
Becomes its blindest vassal - though its lord
By force of arms-its shame is called his shame,
As its the glory gathered by his sword.
Lonely he is: he has nor friend nor lover,
Sith in his body he is dedicate…
His comrades only share his life and offer
Their further deeds to one more heart oblate.
Living, lie's made an 'Argument Beyond'
For others' peace; but when hot wars have birth,
For all his brothers' safety he is bond
To Fate or Whatsoever sways this Earth.
Dying, his mangled body, to inter it,
He doth bequeath him into comrade hands,
His soul he renders to some Captain Spirit
That knows, admires, pities, and understands!
All this you knew by that which doth reside
Deeper than learning; by apprehension
Of ancient, dark, and melancholy pride;
You were a Soldier true and died as one!…
All day the long wind cries, the clouds unroll,
But to the cloud and wind I cry, 'Be still!'
What need of comfort has the heroic soul?
What soldier finds a soldier's grave is chill?
Robert Nichols's Other Poems
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