THE SONG OF THE SOLDIER
by
Gilbert Wells
Sing ho for the bloody battlefield! 
Sing ho for the carnage red! 
Sing ho for groaning wounded! 
Sing ho for the silent dead! 
Sing ho for the murd'rous bayonet!
Sing ho for the shrieking shell! 
Sing ho for the flight to heaven 
And the swifter flight to Hell.'

That was the song of the soldier, as he sat in 'The Old Black Bull,' 
Then he told how in hottest fighting he always had kept cool; 
And his comrades all applauded as if every word were true, 
But they didn't believe a word he said, for they were soldiers too! 

He told of the midnight marches, he told of the night attacks. 
Of the deadly mountain conflicts he'd had with the savage blacks; 
He told how he'd saved the colours by the use of his sword-arm strong, 
When an aged stranger entered and sat 'midst the soldiers throng;
 
And the aged stranger listened to those tales of war's alarms, 
Then he emptied another man's pewter, and he spoke with outstretched arms. 
He spoke with an air impressive, he spoke with a dauntless mien, 
And he spoke with words incisive, and with gestures neat and clean;
 
And the soldier lads all listened to the aged stranger's tale, 
And whenever his pot was empty they filled it again with ale. 
I remember... 'tis years ago now,' the aged one began, 
I shudder e'en now to think of the terrible risks I ran.
 
Alone I stood facing thousands, alone 'gainst a howling horde— 
Alone, not a single companion—alone, without even a sword! 
I could see how their wicked eyes glittered...
They were mad with the lust for blood—
How could I stem the torrent of this threatening Human flood? 

Alone! And still I was fearless, the mob I still defied, 
'This rock shall fly from its firm base as soon as I!' I cried. 
That was the fateful signal, the howling yells rose higher, 
And I stood there in my glory as the scoundrels opened fire; 

And the missiles hit the landscape all round with a sickening splodge, 
But I still stood there uninjured, for I was a devil to dodge! 
And the howling mob grew fiercer, like demons let at large, 
And e'vry moment I stood there I expected the fiends to charge. 

Then a shell came whistling towards me as I stood in that perilous place, 
And I dodged too late to avoid it, and it caught me full in the face! 
You talk of the fumes of lyddite, and their poisonous, gaseous smell, 
And their—Bah! I say they are nothing to the fumes of that awful shell!'

He shook at the recollection, he paused with a frightened frown 
And as all listened for the finish the aged man sat down. 
'But how is it,' they shouted in chorus, ''that you live to tell-the tale?' 
Then the aged one shuddered and answered with a weird, unearthly wail,

The scene was the Theatre Royal of a Midland mining town, 
And as soon as the shell had hit me they rang the curtain down. 
My friends, pray excuse my emotion, your pardon I humbly beg— 
The fatal shell that had hit me, was an antediluvian egg!'  
The end