The Universal Soldier Poem by Mel Carter

The Universal Soldier

Rating: 4.6


I have cut and thrust with gusto, locked horns with tooth and nail
With might and main I've held my own, outlasted chain and mail
I've taken chance with listed lance,
Crossed swords with tilt-yard blade:
But you won't glimpse clear the flashing spear
Of my funeral cavalcade.

I left the Latin Legion Ninth in Pictish mist and cloud
Cross-Rubiconed my regiments, thumbed-up the hapless cowed
My side's been split in sand-strewn pit,
Their God's upon a Cross:
Yet hark not clear to the parting cheer
For my gladiatorial loss.

I've ranked and filed and mêléed on the Gallic proving ground
I've nocked and drawn and loosed the shaft, a cloth-yard foe-flesh bound
Slashed scar-on-crust, been billed and thrust
Unto the breach once more:
Though you won't catch clear the quav'ring queer
Of my grave funebrial score.

I've set my sights on bold Brown Bess in scanty scarlet thread
By grain-field bound in pastures new, begirt the native tread
Now here's a thing: I sacked a King,
Brewed tea with ocean foam:
But cling on clear to the swaying bier
For my long procession home.

I've whistled down to Dixie in the lee of shaded men
Been granted in the Gatling's guise the guile to go again
I've doled out dues to greys and blues,
Laid low in civil strife:
Yet you won't heed clear the snigg'ring sneer
Of my fleeting wayward life.

I've marched with madman's measure to the mud-hid mitrailleuse
Trench-footed trudged in no-man's land, where mustard-doom confers
With garlic breath, the kiss of death
On green-gassed doughboy dupes:
Though dropping clear a blistering tear
For those cannon-foddered troops.

I've been mustered, mortared, mortified; mule and donkey led
Bronzed and ironed, brassed and tinned, steeled against the lead
'Keep powder dry! ' the Captains cry,
Long live the soldier's creed!
But keep well clear of the vaulting rear
Of my pitch-plumed raven steed.

I've expunged emperors, curtailed queens, traduced the Tsarist bent
Dismissed despots, cashiered Kings, soothed slavery's just lament
God's on my side, so I decide,
The tilt of history's beam:
Yet hearken clear to the jarring jeer
For my elegiac theme.

I've hit the harness running, up a blade-entrammelled beach
Tripped out on light fantastic grass; Mashed jungle germ and leech
Then took off fast, swift to the last,
Repealed Catch 22:
Though I'm dreading clear the drawing near
Of my disregarded due.

I have fought at Ford and Ferry, in Field and castle keep
At Crécy, Blenheim, Azincourt, at Waterloo, at Ypres
Over here for a Hundred Year,
Or Thirty if you must:
But whisper it clear in the sculpted ear
Of my monumental bust.

I've been slain in berth and billet, by bayonet-broken wire
From phosgene-fume, full fusillade, in Fermi's fission fire
I've cast my lot with rifle shot
It's my head on the block:
Yet I shudder sheer with fleeting fear
For the cut-throat axeman's shock.

I've rattled sabres, ruled the waves, I've tipped the doodle's wing
Praised Gunga Din and Seen No Ships, watched Danny Deever swing
There's rank on rank and three rounds blank
When it's low that I've been laid:
Though who'll stitch clear the shroud severe
For my ocean masquerade?

I'm Genghis Khan, Geronimo, Old Ironsides, Saint Joan
Red Baron, Privit Tommy A, Attila, Ike, Unknown
Bad cess to foe, when Drake's below
And snails are on the thorn:
But pick out clear the winding drear
Of my last-post farewell horn.

I have trampled out the vintage, the grapes of wrath in store
Death-valley thundered onwards to the cannon's gaping maw
I've hunkered down on high-veldt town,
Discharged the Dutchman's curse:
Yet he'll count clear the costing dear
For my drab-draped vault-bound hearse.

The emblems razed from blazoned field embrued with yeoman's gore
For freedom's fight, for Union Flag, Old Glory, Tricolore
Are Eagles black fused back to back,
The Hakenkreuz abhorred:
They'll never clear the slicing shear
Of my terrible swift sword.

I have been New Model Roundhead and the Laughing Cavalier
The Templar Knight, the old sea dog, the pilot and the peer
Played fife and drum, drunk rationed rum,
Poled Charon's great divide:
But I won't steer clear of wrangling here
Till I reach the other side.

I've been the fleet commander of the ships that died in shame
To bomb, betray, to scupper, to the Pearly gates they came
I've paid them back in cities black,
Bockscar, Enola Gay:
Though I'll suffer dear that flaming sphere
Until my Judgement Day.

The dual fateful lightning-flash of fylfot ebon beast
Loosed famine, pestilence, conquest, war: spectres at the feast
When I recall beyond a Wall,
Where crimsoned minds decay
I still hear clear the faltering fleer
Of those that came our way.

I've played the game full-fairly up, been sold the Dulce lie
Saluted dread and misery in those about to die
I've taken pay against the day,
Kings' shillings won't be found:
But I can't count clear the graveyard gear
On my own interment ground.

I've bitten dust with every fall, rimed hoar with every breath
Patrolled past desert ambuscade; tin crumbling, froze to death
Been shot and killed, been damned and drilled,
Accused of every crime:
Though I now sense clear the yearning year
Of my own departure time.


************************


You'll kiss, they claim (and many will) , the festering foot of fame
The blade, the noose, the Chair, old age - they'll get you all the same
And when they do, it's this you'll rue:
Those lives they set at naught
Were yours, not theirs - yet sleep in peace

Your epitaph: I fought



*******************

Carmel

POET'S NOTES ABOUT THE POEM
The Universal Soldier
'Old soldiers never die, nor even fade away'
COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Jazib Kamalvi 23 May 2018

A good start with a nice poem, Mel. You may like to read my poem, Love And Iust. Thank you.

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Guy Lip-more 07 January 2013

Brilliant poetry in my opinion, fantastic write, phew.

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