A Shilling Earned

by | Apr 5, 2009 | Poetry | 0 comments

Creased and faded photographs, chronicles of the past,
Half forgotten faces, friendships built to last,
The faces smiling back at me with laughter in their eyes,
Were bonded by the regiment, the strongest of all ties.

Treading in the footsteps of bygone men at arms,
We left behind our loved ones, in cities and country farms,
Soldiering where it was deemed the nation had a need,
We took our chance, and put our trust in the soldiers creed.

Long weary marches over burning dusty roads,
Back bowed and muscles ache under heavy loads,
Not always sure of why, but always we showed willing,
Three meals a day, a place to lay, and the widow’s shilling.

Letters from our loved ones, read and read again,
Filled with news of family, sometimes filled with pain,
Sometimes a stricken comrade would fall along the way,
And wrapped in issue blanket, was laid in foreign clay.
And drummer boys far from home, and so, so young in years,
Dreamt at night of England’s shores, their faces wet with tears.

Twenty years of service done, never once to face defeat,
Then struck down by the fever, drained by tropic heat.
Invalided home, pensioned on half pay,
Not yet time expired, you hear the pay master say.

Living in an attic on the wrong side of the tracks,
With no running water, peeling paint and plaster cracked.
Body racked with fever, muscles filled with pain,
The legacy of endless nights, bivouacked in the rain.

Staring at the candle, my source of light and heat,
I hear the sound of a band, and the pound of marching feet.
Moving to the window I look down on empty street,
No marching men, no flying flags, I feel at last defeat.

Taking up the photograph I seek a friendly face,
Then tear it once, tear it twice, I’ve lost the final race.


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