"Fighting Mac" Poem by Robert William Service

"Fighting Mac"

Rating: 3.0


A Life Tragedy

A pistol shot rings round and round the world;
In pitiful defeat a warrior lies.
A last defiance to dark Death is hurled,
A last wild challenge shocks the sunlit skies.
Alone he falls, with wide, wan, woeful eyes:
Eyes that could smile at death -- could not face shame.

Alone, alone he paced his narrow room,
In the bright sunshine of that Paris day;
Saw in his thought the awful hand of doom;
Saw in his dream his glory pass away;
Tried in his heart, his weary heart, to pray:
"O God! who made me, give me strength to face
The spectre of this bitter, black disgrace."

* * * * *

The burn brawls darkly down the shaggy glen;
The bee-kissed heather blooms around the door;
He sees himself a barefoot boy again,
Bending o'er page of legendary lore.
He hears the pibroch, grips the red claymore,
Runs with the Fiery Cross, a clansman true,
Sworn kinsman of Rob Roy and Roderick Dhu.

Eating his heart out with a wild desire,
One day, behind his counter trim and neat,
He hears a sound that sets his brain afire --
The Highlanders are marching down the street.
Oh, how the pipes shrill out, the mad drums beat!
"On to the gates of Hell, my Gordons gay!"
He flings his hated yardstick away.

He sees the sullen pass, high-crowned with snow,
Where Afghans cower with eyes of gleaming hate.
He hurls himself against the hidden foe.
They try to rally -- ah, too late, too late!
Again, defenseless, with fierce eyes that wait
For death, he stands, like baited bull at bay,
And flouts the Boers, that mad Majuba day.

He sees again the murderous Soudan,
Blood-slaked and rapine-swept. He seems to stand
Upon the gory plain of Omdurman.
Then Magersfontein, and supreme command
Over his Highlanders. To shake his hand
A King is proud, and princes call him friend.
And glory crowns his life -- and now the end,

The awful end. His eyes are dark with doom;
He hears the shrapnel shrieking overhead;
He sees the ravaged ranks, the flame-stabbed gloom.
Oh, to have fallen! -- the battle-field his bed,
With Wauchope and his glorious brother-dead.
Why was he saved for this, for this? And now
He raises the revolver to his brow.

* * * * *

In many a Highland home, framed with rude art,
You'll find his portrait, rough-hewn, stern and square;
It's graven in the Fuyam fellah's heart;
The Ghurka reads it at his evening prayer;
The raw lands know it, where the fierce suns glare;
The Dervish fears it. Honor to his name
Who holds aloft the shield of England's fame.

Mourn for our hero, men of Northern race!
We do not know his sin; we only know
His sword was keen. He laughed death in the face,
And struck, for Empire's sake, a giant blow.
His arm was strong. Ah! well they learnt, the foe
The echo of his deeds is ringing yet --
Will ring for aye. All else . . . let us forget.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Michael Pruchnicki 22 January 2010

Please spare us the usual whine full of the current fashionable political correctness and the garbled grammar of twisted logic! First of all, Service makes clear that the poem expresses the tragedy of one man's life! The suicide was committed by a soldier whose king was proud to shake his hand (doubtless after pinning the Victoria Cross on his Highlander's scarlet tunic!) and princes of the realm called him friend. What was the world that Service alludes to but the British Empire before its post-WW2 decline into a welfare state! The ever-present taint of 'racism' (the only sin recognized in the modern welfare state) makes its way into a 'first class poem with great lines' (thank you for the left-handed compliment) ! Why in the world cannot his 'disgrace' be simply his failure to die in battle, as a loyal soldier of his country might well long for?

12 7 Reply
Manonton Dalan 22 January 2012

war is a word invented by man to justify killing now it's self defensemd

5 8 Reply
Sadiqullah Khan 22 January 2010

The poor warrior Hired to protect the booty Of the company of traders From west to east Plunder and plunder And follows the gospel Anointed holy Crown and cross With sacks full The warrior returns To the north land For many an avarice His head without pride So he commits suicide “The echo of his deeds is ringing yet - Will ring for aye. All else... let us forget”

5 7 Reply
Mariam Mababaya 22 January 2005

This was wonderful and the punctuation was great... Keep writing. Mariam

2 7 Reply
Chinedu Dike 30 January 2022

A tragic story well articuated and nicely brought forth with clarity of thought and mind.

0 0 Reply
Dr Dillip K Swain 24 May 2021

Alone he falls with wide, wan and woeful eyes.. this poignant expression creates impact and influence!

0 0 Reply
Garry Sharp 14 January 2015

Why did William Service come up as non-existent in your search enquiry?

1 0 Reply
ian Sutherland 23 September 2014

This poem is about a brave and dedicated soldier called Hector MacDonald who left his job as an apprentice kiltmaker in Inverness to join the Gordon Highlanders in Aberdeen. He worked his way up the ranks and became a celebrated hero for his bravery in the Soudan and in India. He was eroniously accused of child molesting and homosexuality by his senior in command and advised to do the right thing. Hector shot himself in the head in a small hotel in Paris. The accusations were never endorsed or proven or even effectively looked into. He was a friend of the famous Scott Skinner (celebrated fiddler and composer) of Aberdeenshire who wrote a tune in his memory called Hector The Hero. Sudsieboy.

4 0 Reply
H. Calvert 21 September 2021

Thank you so much. I felt certain this was about a real person. How tragic!

1 0 Reply
ian Sutherland 23 September 2014

This poem is about a brave and dedicated soldier called Hector MacDonald who left his job as an apprentice kiltmaker in Inverness to join the Gordon Highlanders in Aberdeen. He worked his way up the ranks and became a celebrated hero for his bravery in the Soudan and in India. He was eroniously accused of child molesting and homosexuality by his senior in command and advised to do the right thing. Hector shot himself in the head in a small hotel in Paris. The accusations were never endorsed or proven or even effectively looked into. He was a friend of the famous Scott Skinner (celebrated fiddler and composer) of Aberdeenshire who wrote a tune in his memory called Hector The Hero. Sudsieboy.

2 0 Reply
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