If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
[“If I should die …” the poem begins. The soldier is prepared to die for his beloved country. It is a lovely thought, indeed, but only that. For me, The Soldier’s blissful England is a place that never existed, but yet he was led to believe that it did and that it was therefore worth dying for–notice there is no reference to fighting or how The Soldier might die.]
Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!
Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.
[“And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.” What a sad, sad thought, that it is death that brings peace to the soldier. In Vietnam a “million dollar wound” was one that was severe enough to remove one’s buddy from the country. “You’re going home.” And then we never heard of him again.]