November 11, 2009

A poem for Armistice Day

Foot Soldier

I have killed with the blade, with the halberd and pike;
with the flintlock, the pistol and spear.
I have marched with my enemy’s head held aloft,
and I’ve crawled and lain screaming in fear
on battlefields bloody and flooded with waste,
where humanity’s bounds were rejected;
I have prayed to a God who could not give a damn,
granted mercy where none was expected.

I have fought in the desert, in jungles and swamps;
I have died in the mountains and plains.
The veldt and the forest surrender my bones,
and the farmers return my remains.
Under cannonade, bombard, mortar and strafe,
on beaches and rivers and streets
I have fought against madness as surely as shell,
to advance as good reason retreats.

I am digger and skirmisher, tommy and grunt,
I am rifleman, dogface and pawn;
I’m the first to go forward, the last to withdraw
the one for whom all mothers mourn.
I’ve learned some sad truths as I marched through time
to the trumpet and snare drum’s rattle,
but only one truth need be carved in our hearts;

All soldiers die on the first day of battle.

© 2006, 2009


  1. Waltzing Matilda always was a favourite. Glad the circle came round from the Dawson's bees to find this.

  2. Hi Valerie

    I can recommend Tom Waits' version, if you don't know it already, called Tom Traubert's Blues.

    (I had no idea we had burrowing, brawling bees...!)

  3. Didn't know the Tom Waits. Do you know the Pogues' version of WM? All time great band.

    Such wonderful angles & terminal buzzing in the Dawson's bees clip.The Attenboroughs always were one of the best things to come out of England - along with Australians.