Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
The Private of the Buffs
By Sir Francis Hastings Doyle (1810–1888)
 
LAST night, among his fellow roughs,
  He jested, quaff’d, and swore;
A drunken private of the Buffs,
  Who never look’d before.
To-day, beneath the foeman’s frown,        5
  He stands in Elgin’s place,
Ambassador from Britain’s crown
  And type of all her race.
 
Poor, reckless, rude, low-born, untaught,
  Bewilder’d, and alone,        10
A heart with English instinct fraught
  He yet can call his own.
Aye, tear his body limb from limb,
  Bring cord, or axe, or flame:
He only knows, that not through him        15
  Shall England come to shame.
 
Far Kentish hop-fields round him seem’d,
  Like dreams, to come and go;
Bright leagues of cherry-blossom gleam’d,
  One sheet of living snow;        20
The smoke above his father’s door
  In grey soft eddyings hung:
Must he then watch it rise no more,
  Doom’d by himself, so young?
 
Yes, honour calls!—with strength like steel        25
  He put the vision by.
Let dusky Indians whine and kneel;
  An English lad must die.
And thus, with eyes that would not shrink,
  With knee to man unbent,        30
Unfaltering on its dreadful brink,
  To his red grave he went.
 
Vain, mightiest fleets of iron framed;
  Vain, those all-shattering guns;
Unless proud England keep, untamed,        35
  The strong heart of her sons.
So, let his name through Europe ring—
  A man of mean estate,
Who died, as firm as Sparta’s king,
  Because his soul was great.        40
 
 
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