Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
The Private of the Buffs
By Sir Francis Hastings Doyle (1810–1888)
 
          “Some Seiks, and a private of the Buffs, having remained behind with the grog-carts, fell into the hands of the Chinese. On the next morning they were brought before the authorities, and commanded to perform the kotou. The Seiks obeyed; but Moyse, the English soldier, declaring that he would not prostrate himself before any Chinaman alive, was immediately knocked upon the head, and his body thrown on a dunghill.”—See China Correspondent of The Times.

Last night, among his fellow roughs,
  He jested, quaffed, and swore;
A drunken private of the Buffs,
  Who never looked 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,
  Bewildered, and alone,        10
A heart, with English instinct fraught,
  He yet can call his own.
Ay, 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 1 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 gray 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
 
Note 1. The Buffs, or East Kent Regiment. [back]
 
 
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