The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

The Cricketers of Flanders

The first to climb the parapet

With cricket balls" in either hand;

The first to vanish in the smoke

Of God-forsaken No Man's Land;

First at the wire and soonest through,

First at those red-mouthed hounds of hell,

The Maxims, and the first to fall, --

They do their bit and do it well.

Full sixty yards I've seen them throw

With all that nicety of aim

They learned on British cricket-fields.

Ah, bombing is a Briton's game!

Shell-hole to shell-hole, trench to trench,

"Lobbing them over" with an eye

As true as though it were a game

And friends were having tea close by.

Pull down some art-offending thing

Of carven stone, and in its stead

Let splendid bronze commemorate

These men, the living and the dead.

No figure of heroic size,

Towering skyward like a god;

But just a lad who might have stepped

From any British bombing squad.

His shrapnel helmet set atilt,

His bombing waistcoat sagging low,

His rifle slung across his back:

Poised in the very act to throw.

And let some graven legend tell

Of those weird battles in the West

Wherein he put old skill to use,

And played old games with sterner zest.

Thus should he stand, reminding those

In less-believing days, perchance,

How Britain's fighting cricketers

Helped bomb the Germans out of France.

And other eyes than ours would see;

And other hearts than ours would thrill;

And others say, as we have said:

"A sportsman and a soldier still!"