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The Old Soldier

The room is austere, in fact nearly bare:
in the fireplace burns a small log
lighting a table, a cot and some chairs,
an old soldier, and a mug of warm grog.
His old servant stokes the fire then leaves,
while he sits and stares at the flame.
His calves still feel the straps of the greaves,
his head feels the weight of the helm.
The ache of old wounds can be eased by the warm,
but it cannot soothe them away.
The legs, the neck, and the strong right arm,
are fallow and withered today.
Firelight dancers in blue flickering flame,
at once his old vigor returns.
He greets old comrades, and calls them by name,
In his eyes the flowing joy burns.
The clarion cry of the brass trumpets sound;
leaping charges on billowed banners fly.
The din of the battle turns his head ‘round,
grimly he smiles as one not afraid to die.
“A sally, a sally, hit them there”, he cries.
“Forward men and victory is ours”.
He cheers for joy as the war music dies,
and the wine of war flows, feeding the flowers.
Toes feel the rhythm of the endless march pace;
he stoically sleeps in coverless rain.
The merciless hand of the sun burns his face,
“Damn, moldy hardtack to eat again!"
A useless old body lies and burns without rest,
an endless kaleidoscope runs in his head.
Fire out, he wakes at the servant’s behest,
And aching, an old soldier retires to bed.

Lord Thomas Buttesthorn
As told to Lady Ambrosia de Andalucia



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