Thomas Aird

The Old Soldier: Campaign The First

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“Glory of War! But there—behold the end!”
2The Old Soldier said: 'twas by his evening fire,
Winter the time: so saying, out he jerked
His wooden leg before him. With a look
Half comic, half pathetic, his gray head
Turned down askance, the pigtail out behind
Stiff with attention, saying nothing more,
He sat and eyed the horizontal peg.
Back home the stump he drew not, till with force
Disdainful deep into the slumbering fire
He struck the feruled toe, and poking roused
A cheery blaze, to light him at his work.
The unfinished skep is now upon his knee,
For June top-swarmers in his garden trim:
With twists of straw, and willow wattling thongs,
Crooning he wrought. The ruddy flickering fire
Played on his eyebrow shag, and thin fresh cheek,
Touching his varying eye with many a gleam.
His cot behind, soldierly clean and neat,
Gave back the light from many a burnished point,
His simple supper o'er, he reads The Book;
Then loads and mounts his pipe, puffing it slow,
Musing on days of yore, and battles old,
And many a friend and comrade dead and gone,
And vital ones, boughs of himself, cut off
From his dispeopled side, naked and bare.
Puffs short and hurried, puff on puff, betray
His swelling heart: up starts the Man, to keep
The Woman down: forth from his cot he views
Yon moon high going through the clouds of night,
Soft as the soul makes way through yielding dreams:
And Wonder listens in yon starry lofts.
No voice for him! True to the veins of blood,
His eyes still soften; turning in, he locks
His lonely door, and stumps away to bed.

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Thomas Aird