The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

Fleurette

The Wounded Canadian Speaks:

My leg? It's off at the knee.

Do I miss it? Well, some. You see

I've had it since I was born;

And lately a devilish corn.

(I rather chuckle with glee

To think how I've fooled that corn.)

But I'll hobble around all right.

It is n't that, it's my face.

Oh, I know I'm a hideous sight,

Hardly a thing in place.

Sort of gargoyle, you'd say.

Nurse won't give me a glass,

But I see the folks as they pass

Shudder and turn away;

Turn away in distress...

Mirror enough, I guess.

I'm gay! You bet I am gay,

But I was n't a while ago.

If you'd seen me even to-day,

The darnedest picture of woe,

With this Caliban mug of mine,

So ravaged and raw and red,

Turned to the wall -- in fine

Wishing that I was dead....

What has happened since then,

Since I lay with my face to the wall,

The most despairing of men!

Listen! I'll tell you all.

That poilu across the way,

With the shrapnel wound on his head,

Has a sister: she came to-day

To sit awhile by his bed.

All morning I heard him fret:

"Oh, when will she come, Fleurette?"

Then sudden, a joyous cry;

The tripping of little feet;

The softest, tenderest sigh;

A voice so fresh and sweet;

Clear as a silver bell,

Fresh as the morning dews:

"C'est toi, cest toi, Marcel!

Mon frère, comme je suis heureuse!"

So over the blanket's rim

I raised my terrible face,

And I saw -- how I envied him!

A girl of such delicate grace;

Sixteen, all laughter and love;

As gay as a linnet, and yet

As tenderly sweet as a dove;

Half woman, half child -- Fleurette.

Then I turned to the wall again.

(I was awfully blue, you see,)

And I thought with a bitter pain:

"Such visions are not for me."

So there like a log I lay,

All hidden, I thought, from view,

When sudden I heard her say,

"Ah! Who is that malheureux?"

Then briefly I heard him tell

(However he came to know)

How I'd smothered a bomb that fell

Into the trench, and so

None of my men were hit,

Though it busted me up a bit.

Well, I did n't quiver an eye,

And he chattered and there she sat;

And I fancied I heard her sigh --

But I would n't just swear that.

And maybe she was n't so bright,

Though she talked in a merry strain,

And I closed my eyes ever so tight,

Yet I saw her ever so plain:

Her dear little tilted nose,

Her delicate, dimpled chin,

Her mouth like a budding rose,

And the glistening pearls within;

Her eyes like the violet:

Such a rare little queen -- Fleurette.

And at last when she rose to go,

The light was a little dim,

And I ventured to peep, and so

I saw her, graceful and slim,

And she kissed him and kissed him, and oh

How I envied and envied him!

So when she was gone I said

In rather a dreary voice

To him of the opposite bed:

"Ah, friend, how you must rejoice!

But me, I'm a thing of dread.

For me nevermore the bliss

The thrill of a woman's kiss."

Then I stopped, for lo! she was there,

And a great light shone in her eyes.

And me! I could only stare,

I was taken so by surprise,

When gently she bent her head:

"May I kiss you, sergeant?" she said.

Then she kissed my burning lips,

With her mouth like a scented flower,

And I thrilled to the finger-tips,

And I had n't even the power

To say: "God bless you, dear!"

And I felt such a precious tear

Fall on my withered cheek,

And darn it, I could n't speak.

And so she went sadly away,

And I know that my eyes were wet.

Ah, not to my dying day

Will I forget, forget!

Can you wonder now I am gay?

God bless her, that little Fleurette!