David Lewis Paget

Gold Star - 9,373 Points (22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

The Day The Soldiers Came - Poem by David Lewis Paget

The old man sat at his cottage door
As the soldiers came to town,
And laughed as the trucks went rumbling by,
Laughed as the soldiers frowned,
They carried their rifles high that day,
Marched past him by the score,
And scowled as the old man mocked them there,
As they waged their futile war!

The tanks sat threatening in the square,
The people stood in the street,
Watching the flood of khaki power,
The boots on the marching feet,
The General stood in his jeep that day
A scroll in his scrawny hand:
‘It's never too late to liberate
The folk in this tortured land! '

But then a ripple of laughter came
From the townsfolk standing there,
They seemed to enjoy a local joke,
A joke that they wouldn't share.
The soldiers were tense, bemused at that,
They'd rather the ripple of fear
They'd felt in a hundred similar towns
Since the war broke out that year.

The General barked, ‘Enough of that!
Where is your National Pride?
We've come to free you from servitude
And a great deal more, beside! '
But the old man, sat in his cottage seat
Had let out a great guffaw,
And the soldiers dragged him out of his chair,
To face the General's scorn.

‘Why do you laugh, old man, ' he said,
‘I could shoot you in your pride! '
‘I'm sure you could, and probably would
As you scorch our countryside!
But what price honour, when history
Ascribes your deeds to your name,
Will shooting a poor old peasant man
Ring loud in your Hall of Fame? '

‘Then why do you laugh? ' the General said,
‘The picture here is grim!
These soldiers fought, and died and bled,
You lack respect for them! '
‘This town has sat two thousand years, '
The old man said at last,
‘Was here when Hannibal's elephants stopped
To feed on the mountain grass.'

‘The Roman Legions passed through here
In their conquest and their might,
And Charlemagne's Grand Army
For a single, baleful night;
Even Napoleon Bonaparte
Conquered this little town,
For years, we had the Fascisti, and
The Nazis held us down.'

‘But where have their soldiers gone today,
They lie, each under his mound,
While we sit back, as your troops attack
And thrive in our little town.
You'll only be here for a moment more
Two lines on a history page,
Just one more army to pass through here
In your arrogance, and your rage! '

The army was there for a week or so,
But then, they had to withdraw,
The old man laughed as the soldiers passed,
He let out a great guffaw;
The Rebel General brought his tanks
And a speech that he had planned:
‘It's never too late to liberate
The folk in this tortured land! '

18 August,2012

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Poem Submitted: Friday, August 17, 2012

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