A Soldier in England

After the hatred he began to love.

After his loneliness he talked to friends.

Instead of deadly sunlight, here the rain

Softened a landscape to his liking. Of

The Army he could say: ‘Even a war ends,’

And feel close to his remote country again.


Was this not childhood recaptured? The books

Had told him how the kings wore crowns to sea.

The castle soared beside him now, and the swan

Embellished the river by his proud good looks.

The white rose, the red rose, these made history,

As might today the fair-haired Norfolk airman.


Slowly, not all at once, he could forget

The barracks where the boy, next bed to his,

Had cried each night, and he been too afraid

To comfort, where that private, sobbing, let

His heart out to the pillow, no wife to kiss,

While other soldiers counted cadences or prayed.


Brought down to sham Alaskan mining-camps,

Solaced by Shakespeare’s Sonnets, magazines,

He had learned much of life, and most was bad:

The depths of foul talk, garbage, tear-stained stamps

On letters scrawled by desperate bravos; scenes

From Dante - circle of the young and sad.


For some the test grew greater, and the war

Took them away, whose letter-writing ceased;

They had been shipped on death’s pacific seas.

But he had sailed with lesser winds, and, far

From Texas and the desert trials’ released

His heart, and now, in England, stood at ease.