The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

A Letter from the Front

I was out early to-day, spying about

From the top of a haystack -- such a lovely morning --

And when I mounted again to canter back

I saw across a field in the broad sunlight

A young Gunner Subaltern, stalking along

With a rook-rifle held at the ready, and -- would you believe it? --

A domestic cat, soberly marching beside him.

So I laughed, and felt quite well disposed to the youngster,

And shouted out "the top of the morning" to him,

And wished him "Good sport!" -- and then I remembered

My rank, and his, and what I ought to be doing:

And I rode nearer, and added, "I can only suppose

You have not seen the Commander-in-Chief's order

Forbidding English officers to annoy their Allies

By hunting and shooting."

But he stood and saluted

And said earnestly, "I beg your pardon, Sir,

I was only going out to shoot a sparrow

To feed my cat with."

So there was the whole picture,

The lovely early morning, the occasional shell

Screeching and scattering past us, the empty landscape, --

Empty, except for the young Gunner saluting,

And the cat, anxiously watching his every movement.

I may be wrong, and I may have told it badly,

But it struck me as being extremely ludicrous.