Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
I. Patriotism
The Private of the Buffs
Sir Francis Hastings Doyle (1810–1888)
 
 
Or, the British Soldier in China
  
  [“Some Seiks, and a private of the Buffs, 1 having remained behind with the grog carts, fell into the hands of the Chinese. On the next day they were brought before the authorities and ordered to perform Kotou. The Seiks obeyed, but Moyse, the English soldier, declared he would not prostrate himself before any Chinaman alive, and was immediately knocked upon the head, and his body thrown upon a dunghill.”—China Correspondent of the London 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 hop-fields round him seemed,
  Like dreams, to come and go;
Bright leagues of cherry-blossom gleamed,
  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,
  Doomed by himself so young?
 
Yes, honor 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” are the East Kent Regiment. [back]
 
 
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